That headline is not delusional. I really am Aaron Rodgers.
Maybe I'm not a world class quarterback who has won a Super Bowl and earned more money than most of humanity will earn in their lives. But I still think I'm Aaron Rodgers. In fact, after reading this new interview with the Packers quarterback from ESPN the Magazine, I'm CONVINCED I am Aaron Rodgers.
Hear me out.
I was born in September 1983. Rodgers was born December 2, 1983.
Rodgers is less than three months younger than I am. When the Packers drafted him in 2005 and I saw his birthdate, it was neat. The next quarterback was basically my age. It also served to remind 21-year-old me that I was getting older.
Yet age is only a number. It does not speak to who we are, just how long we have been on this earth. Who we are is much more about what we believe and what we do with our time in this world.
That's where I really began to see why I am Aaron Rodgers.
When Rodgers became the starter in 2008, I along with everyone else began to notice the talent he had. The accuracy. The smarts. The arm strength. It was all on display and we knew there was another darn good quarterback at the helm in Green Bay.
It wasn't until 2010 and the Packers' run to Super Bowl XLV that I really discovered how much I had in common with Rodgers. Not Rodgers the quarterback, mind you. I can't throw a football any better than Charlie Brown can kick it.
I was finding I was eerily similar to Rodgers the human being.
As Green Bay was preparing for Super Bowl XLV, Rodgers was everywhere. Highlights were all over the internet showing the incredible performance he had put up to get the Packers to the Super Bowl. At this point, the admiration was still with the player more than the man.
It was after the Packers' win that something Rodgers said got to me. He talked about playing with a chip on his shoulder. His story has been told hundreds of times, so it doesn't need to be repeated here, but in short he used all those slights to propel him into the stratosphere of NFL quarterbacks.
We've all had roadblocks thrown our way and have had to prove ourselves at some point and stick it to some doubters. Still, some say Rodgers takes things too far and is overly sensitive and needs to let things go. I've been accused of the same, and much like Rodgers said in the ESPN piece I have gotten better at it. But it's a work in progress.
It was when Rodgers got to the deeper issues in the article that really he really hit home.
Rodgers went on to describe that, despite being raised a Christian by two devoutly Christian parents, he no longer identifies with any religious affiliation. He questioned a lot of the Christian practices and dogma as he got older. Rodgers adds that he thinks organized religion can "have a mind-debilitating effect, because there is an exclusivity that can shut you out from being open to the world, to people, and energy, and love and acceptance."
I was raised Catholic by two Catholic parents. I was confirmed as a senior in high school. Not long after that, I stopped going to church. Like Rodgers, I struggled with some of the trappings of both Catholicism and Christianity as a whole. I still believe in a higher power, but I don't know if I'm a full fledged Christian. Rodgers' points on this are literally the same things I have been asking for 15 years.
Then there are today's social issues. As a white male in his thirties, I've tried to understand and wrap my head around what is causing the racial tensions in our country. I'm a firm believer that to truly understand a person you need to walk a mile in their shoes.
But how can someone do that for someone with a different skin color? It seems impossible. I've struggled to fully explain my feelings on the matter.
He says in the article he doesn't understand what it's like to be profiled or pulled over, "But I know it's a real thing my black teammates have to deal with."
Yet Rodgers wants to learn more. In Kimes’ article, Rodgers’ teammate Randall Cobb calls his quarterback a "sponge" and says that Cobb has “been able to give (Rodgers) the perspective of a black man who grew up in the South and opened his eyes to the challenges in my life."
I've been trying to do the same thing with my own black friends and it's really here where I learned Rodgers and I see the world through a similar lens: we must empathize for before we can sympathize.
While you can argue Rodgers didn't say a lot in the interview, what he did say struck me in a way I didn't expect.
I hope this does not just come off as a "LOOK EVERYONE RODGERS AND I ARE THE SAME" piece. Instead, I wanted to paint a picture of how Rodgers made me understand myself better. He made things clear for me that were previously not.
Rodgers clearly has been spending a lot of time pondering these matters, like a lot of us do. He's a cerebral player on the field, so it isn't surprising he's just as cerebral off of it.
What's comforting about this to me is that there is someone else out there who feels and thinks the same way I do. In a world filled with hot takes and instant analysis, I have always felt kind of alone in the fact I don't react right away and like to think things through over the course of a day, a week, a month, or even a year.
It's like finally realizing someone else gets you. It's liberating.
That the person just happens to be the quarterback of your favorite football team is just a bonus, and yet it's also irrelevant. These players are humans too, and they have beliefs and feelings just like the rest of us.
In the journey of life, the color of the uniform means little. It's the impact the person has that stands the test of time. Rodgers had that impact on me today, and it had absolutely nothing to do with the game of football.
I am Kris Burke, but I am also Aaron Rodgers.