We pulled off quite the coup last week in speaking with Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Here is a brief snippet of my conversation with the highest-rated passer in NFL history, a Super Bowl winner and a sure-fire Hall of Famer.
What's it like being a high-profile NFL quarterback and not just for any team, but for the Green Bay Packers? Are you used to the scrutiny by now or does it still feel invasive at times?
I think both. We're such a big sport over here and we're the most popular sport in the country, so there is a lot of scrutiny that comes along with playing the game. I think it goes both ways. A lot of times, there is too much praise when you're playing well and maybe too much scrutiny when you're not. You take the ups and the downs and kind of stay in the middle of it all and have an appreciation of both sides – the beauty of winning and the frustration of losing. People have a job to do, they've got to write stories and people want content in the blink of an eye. It's all part of the job description and I think you have to find some humour in all of it.
What are you like when you have the game on the line and the ball in your hands? What are you like in those moments?
I would like to think I'm pretty confident. I think it's a mindset that gets shaped and developed and honed over the years when it comes to how to deal with these moments the best. I think, a lot of times, the struggle and failure comes when you make the moment bigger than it actually is. When you're able to simplify little aspects of the moment, the task becomes a lot less daunting. Break it down into simple things you need to get done… correct reads, snap count, progressions and making the right decisions. That's what it comes down to. When you kind of get overwhelmed and you start thinking too much, that's when the negative plays happen and you don't convert. For me, it's been a process of understanding to watch my breathing in those moments. The ability to slow your heart rate down and slow your mind down allows you to be more present in the moment. I think that applies generally to life – the more you can be present in the moment, the more you can get out of situations and conversations and see the opportunity in every part of life. It's no different in a two-minute drill – the more I can focus, stay in the moment, relax my breathing and go through the types of breathing I've been working on over the last few years; I'm able to be a lot more calm in those moments. And the more calm I am, the more my teammates can relax, focus and have confidence that we're going to go down and score.
Did you model yourself professionally on another NFL player – past or present?
I grew up watching the San Francisco 49ers so Joe Montana and Steve Young were my idols. After that, it was Brett Favre. Joe retired in 1994 I think and Steve retired in the late 90s. Favre was coming off three MVPs in the mid-90s and he was my favourite player. So you can imagine the thrill when I got drafted by the Packers and got to play with him. If you watch us both and put our film together, there are a lot of similarities in the way we throw and our footwork. A lot of that I learned by watching him every day in practice for three years and watching him in games. He was able to throw from every platform, had a really good arm and really good footwork at the core of his fundamentals. He obviously brought a lot of fun and enthusiasm to the game so I'm proud to say I modelled many parts of my game after watching him.
Click here to watch Neil's full interview with Aaron Rodgers which is available on NFL GamePass.