Aaron Rodgers makes real difference


MADISON, Wis. -- This postseason, Aaron Rodgers may well be the most-watched man in the NFL.

Last Sunday, with his Green Bay Packers one play away from the offseason, Rodgers deftly avoided Bears defensive end Julius Peppers and hoisted a 48-yard touchdown pass to Randall Cobb. The desperate heave came on a fourth-and-8 and gave the Packers a 33-28 lead with 36 seconds left. It was the third fourth-down conversion of the drive and it delivered the NFC North title and a wild-card game against the San Francisco 49ers.

Did we mention it was Rodgers' first game back after suffering a broken collarbone on Nov. 4? What in the world will he do for an encore -- when he starts to feel comfortable again under center?

The Packers, who are 6-2 with Rodgers and 2-5-1 without him, are a completely different team when he's throwing the ball. After serving a three-season apprenticeship behind Brett Favre, in six years he has fashioned the best career passer rating in league history, currently at 104.9.

Rodgers, who played at the University of California, has always been a thinking man. Even in those ubiquitous insurance commercials, when surrounded by chaos and frivolity -- and sizzling bratwursts at 30,000 feet -- he is the earnest (if slightly baffled) voice of reason.

Back in October, Rodgers told this story about the Packers' victory three years ago in Super Bowl XLV:

"I remember sitting on the bus after we won in [Arlington, Texas], probably two hours after the game, thinking to myself, 'I'm on top of the world. We just accomplished the most amazing goal in football.' But I'm sitting there with a semi-empty feeling because I accomplished everything I wanted to do since I was a kid, and I kind of had a moment.

"I said to myself, 'Is this it? Is there more to life than this?'

"And the answer was resoundingly, 'Yes.' And that's why I'm here tonight."

"Here" was an old-school college rally for Raise Hope for Congo on the shores of Lake Mendota. There was Rodgers, as you've never seen him before, wearing a wool cap and gleefully pogo-sticking around the stage to the House of Pain classic "Jump Around." The 1,500 University of Wisconsin students in attendance jumped right along with him.

Later, Rodgers would say, "It was a blast. The energy on a college campus is unbelievable. I feel like it was something special out there.

"Hopefully, it just starts a snowball momentum that runs downhill and finishes in resolution."

The conversion

Rodgers first crossed paths with actress Emmanuelle Chriqui several years ago, meeting through a mutual friend. She has often talked about the atrocities occurring in the Democratic Republic of Congo, a Central African nation that was consumed by a horrific civil war.

"He was really interested," Chriqui explained. "He's like, 'So tell me, what are you guys doing? What is this?'

"I would share what I was learning. I remember having this conversation with Aaron, saying to him, 'Did you know that in the Congo they use rape as a weapon of warfare?' And he's like, 'No.'"

Since then, Rodgers has done his homework.

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