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Packers’ Rodgers now a champion in his own right

Howard Fendrich Associated Press

ARLINGTON, Texas – Absolutely no need to bring up Ol’ What’s His Name ever again. Aaron Rodgers is a Super Bowl championship quarterback in his own right.

And he’s the game’s MVP, too. That’s an honor Brett Favre, his Green Bay Packers predecessor, never earned.

With precise passes and cool under pressure, Rodgers completed 24 of 39 passes for 304 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions Sunday night to lead the Packers to a 31-25 victory over the Pittsburgh Steelers for Green Bay’s first NFL title since Favre’s in the January 1997 Super Bowl.

Rodgers is 27 years old, just as Favre was then. And after biding his time as a backup until the Packers split with Favre, Rodgers has quickly established himself as one of the game’s best. This was his third full season as a starting QB, and he was particularly good throughout the playoffs, leading the No. 6 seed Packers to three NFC road victories before winning the championship Sunday.

“I’ve never felt like there’s been a monkey on my back. The organization stood behind me, believed in me,” said Rodgers, general manager Ted Thompson’s first-round draft choice six years ago. “I told Ted back in 2005 he wouldn’t be sorry with this pick. I told him in ’08 that I was going to repay their trust and get us this opportunity.”

Sure did, then made the most of it by throwing two TD passes to Greg Jennings and one to Jordy Nelson.

Don’t forget, Rodgers’ strong performance came against Pittsburgh’s defense, the one that limited opponents to a league-low 14.5 points per game this season, and the one that features NFL Defensive Player of the Year Troy Polamalu and linebacker James Harrison.

“He is the reason they won,” Steelers defensive lineman Brett Keisel said.

Added Pittsburgh coach Mike Tomlin: “He showed his mettle and continued to stand in there and throw the football accurately.”

That’s not all Rodgers did. He changed plays at the last moment, reading the defense before the snap and adjusting. He overcame a poor start, a couple of key drops and a third-quarter lapse. And he did it all with little help from a running game that was limited to 50 yards.

“We put everything on his shoulders,” Packers coach Mike McCarthy said. “He did a lot at the line of scrimmage for us against a great defense.”

Just look at Rodgers’ career arc. Despite record-setting years during high school in Chico, Calif., the skinny Rodgers – he was 5-foot-10 and 165 pounds back then – was not seriously recruited by major college football programs.

He went to a community college. Then he starred for two seasons at California. Finally, he was on everyone’s radar, although he wound up sliding to 24th overall when Green Bay picked him in 2005.

How good does that choice look now?

After the Packers stopped the Steelers’ last drive, all Rodgers had to do was walk on the field and kneel down to run out the clock. A short while later, he was clutching the Vince Lombardi Trophy, having joined Favre and Bart Starr as QBs who brought Super Bowl championships to the place they like to call Titletown USA.

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