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Aaron Rodgers is expected to be named MVP of the NFL this season, the third time he will win the award. His Green Bay Packers host the Los Angeles Rams on Saturday to start a playoff run at a potential second Super Bowl title with him as quarterback.
It’s a long way from a guy who didn’t merit a single major college football scholarship offer coming out of high school in Chico, California.
Back then, Rodgers stood 5-foot-10 and weighed just 165 pounds. For scouts, those metrics overrode his ability to spin a football. Even Rodgers wondered about his future as a player, contemplating enrolling in college as a regular student and pursuing a career in law.
Instead he bet on himself and took a shot at playing at a small junior college in California. There, at Butte College, he threw 26 touchdown passes and grew nearly 4 inches. It was enough to impress the University of California, where he became a star before the Packers drafted him.
Long odds. Self-confidence. A will to win. That’s what made Aaron Rodgers so good.
And it’s why he just, perhaps, maybe, possibly, might one day become the host of “Jeopardy!”, the game show he has long been a fan of, once won during a "Celebrity Jeopardy!" competition and will serve as a guest host in 2021.
“Very exciting,” Rodgers said. “… the show has been so special to me over the years.”
“Jeopardy!” is seeking a full-time replacement for Alex Trebek, its beloved host for 37 years who died of pancreatic cancer in November. While there is no timetable to fill the job, it’s believed that guest hosting opportunities are rough tryouts for the coveted position.
Rodgers doesn’t have the trivia championship credibility of Ken Jennings, who holds the record for 74 consecutive victories and this week began a six-week guest hosting stint. He doesn’t have the television experience of other announced guest hosts such as broadcast journalists Katie Couric and Bill Whitaker, or actress Mayim Bialik.
He’s no one’s favorite to get the gig. Just being a guest host was a surprise. Yet he shouldn’t be counted out. He has characteristics that could make him very good at the job.
Rodgers hasn’t just developed as a player the past few decades, he has also become a popular commercial actor, especially for State Farm insurance, where his comedic timing and acting is pretty strong. As a QB, he regularly holds free flowing news conferences and interviews where he often comes across as relatable and interesting.
He has a caustic wit, is quick with one-liners and is adept at thinking on his feet. He carries himself with understandable confidence, which comes out via good-natured insults. He can be very funny.
It may be the key to standing out when reading questions is the vast majority of the job. Trebek masterfully connected with his audience via a welcoming but authoritative persona and ability to express humor on the fly while using an economy of words.
Can Rodgers do something like that? It’s not out of the question.
Rodgers certainly knows what made Trebek so beloved because he was a super fan himself. He said he has watched since his high school days and amid the pressure of the NFL season would use the show as a way to escape for a half an hour.
“It’s been a staple at my house here in Green Bay for the last 16 years,” Rodgers said on Tuesday. “Six o’clock, watching Alex and trying to get as many questions as I can. … We all have so much love and affection for what [Trebek] meant for that half hour, that 22 minutes of our lives on a daily basis.”
That love caused Rodgers to jump at the chance to play for charity during a celebrity competition in 2015. He bested Kevin O’Leary of “Shark Tank” and retired astronaut and future United States Senator Mark Kelly to earn $50,000 for Midwest Athletes Against Childhood Cancer. He previously admitted he was “star struck” meeting Trebek.
Rodgers, of course, currently has a day job in Wisconsin that would prohibit him from becoming a full-time game show host in California. That’s for now. He is 37 and won’t play forever. It might take years to settle on a full-time host.
While the competitor in him makes it extremely unlikely he’d consider it, if presented the full-time “Jeopardy!” job, it wouldn’t be the worst idea to just quit football. Trebek’s estimated salary was $10 million per year. That isn't NFL QB money but it sure isn’t bad, especially since Trebek worked until he was 80.
That’s a long, hypothetical way off, of course. Rodgers sounded honored, and even overwhelmed, at the chance to do Trebek’s job on even a temp basis sometime this spring or summer.
“[I’ll] be even more excited when that opportunity gets a little closer,” Rodgers said.
First, he has to beat the Rams and continue the chase of a little thing called the Super Bowl. There is no doubt he will pursue it with focus and ferocity.
Knowing Aaron Rodgers, it won’t be dissimilar to when he eventually gets to that famed sound stage. If there is a job to be won, then a no-scholarship high school player turned future first-ballot Hall of Famer will try to win it.
Don’t count him out.
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