SUPER BOWL: Aaron Rodgers, other Packers, looking to 'follow Jesus' example'
ARLINGTON, Texas (BP)--NFL experts and newspaper headline writers have been quick to label Green Bay starting quarterback Aaron Rodgers the "Leader of the Pack."
Something about 4,712 yards passing and 34 touchdowns, and leading the Packers to the verge of their first Super Bowl title in more than a decade will do that for you.
But Rodgers made it clear in Tuesday's jam-packed Super Bowl XLV Media Day he only wants to be a leader of God's pack when it comes to influencing others to see his faith in Jesus Christ.
"We all have a platform, we all have a message in our lives," Rodgers told Baptist Press and a worldwide media turnout, which ringed his individual interview area. "I just try to follow Jesus' example, leading by example."
During his six years with the Packers, his career has seen enough twists and turns, dead ends and detours to test anyone's faith. An expected top 10 draft choice, he lasted until the end of the first round for reasons he never understood. He stood on the sidelines for three seasons while Packers quarterback Brett Favre went through his yearly will-he-or-won't-he retirement routine as Packers QB.
Finally given a chance to start three years ago, he has matured into one of the top quarterbacks in the league, but not forgetting his past, present and future in Christ.
"God always has a plan for us, a path. Sometimes we wish we knew it sooner," Rodgers said with a bit of a laugh, "but He always shows up His way."
He credits his parents, Ed and Darla Rodgers, who still live in Northern California where he was raised, for showing him a loving and Christ-centered household. He also remains close to his two longtime accountability partners, Pastors Andrew Burchett of the Neighborhood Church in Chico, Calif., and Young Life Christian youth group leader Matt Hock.
Even in the midst of the craziness of Super Bowl week and Tuesday's Media Day at Cowboys Stadium, Rodgers had already checked in with his accountability team.
"They won't be here Sunday, but they've been calling and texting me," he said. "Matt sent me a photo of his entire Young Life group decked out in Packers gear."
Rodgers' quiet and humble testimony has been enough to inspire Christian NFL fans everywhere and his own teammates as well.
Rookie defensive end C.J. Wilson, whose father is a Pentecostal minister in Mt. Olive, N.C., said he really didn't know what to expect when he showed up for his first NFL season this year. But when he saw the experience of his star quarterback and his witness, Wilson felt encouraged with his own professional football faith.
"I think it does help when your superstar quarterback is walking with God. I've been blessed to be around him and see how God makes all things possible in our lives," Wilson said.
Packers wide receiver Greg Jennings is one of Rodgers' receivers and teammates on the field, but more importantly, a spiritual brother on and off the field. He said he's determined to let Sunday's game against the Pittsburgh Steelers be his platform for God.
"I just want to let people know what it's all about. One of the Scriptures I refer to a lot is, 'to whom much is given, much is required,' and I'm required to have a voice [for God] because I have a stage and a platform," Jennings said.
"Number one, all glory goes to God. That's where it starts and that's where it finishes."
His father, Greg, Sr., is the pastor of Progressive Deliverance Ministries in Kalamazoo, Mich.
Packers defensive tackle Ryan Pickett has been inspired to join an anti-pornography campaign in the NFL this year to help rid the destructive influence among his friends and teammates. He said he had to turn down the invitations of his teammates this week and other times who wanted him to go places he knew was not right.
"I value my family and my wife. I try to stay away from that," Pickett said.
Green Bay kicker Mason Crosby doesn't have to be reminded about the number of Super Bowl games which have come down to a final touchdown or field goal, including the last Super Bowl held in Texas when the New England Patriots won on a last-second kick in Houston.
But he said his faith in Christ won't allow him to be defined by a single kick.
"I think He helps me knowing that kicking is what I do, not who I am. It's not everything that I am. I can escape knowing that my relationship with Christ is what carries me."
Crosby has also noticed his quarterback's faith and his example to his teammates and the sports world.
"Aaron has a great relationship with the Lord," Crosby said. "He's the face of the franchise and it helps to see he's living the message all of the time.
"I'm always reading in the Proverbs and Psalms to relax my mind before we play," Crosby added. "I know that God cares for me all the time regardless of any outcome here."
Art Stricklin is a Dallas-based sports correspondent. With reporting by Jerry Pierce, managing editor of the Southern Baptist TEXAN (www.texanonline.net), newsjournal of the Southern Baptists of Texas Convention.