Aaron Rodgers has been one of the NFL‘s premier quarterbacks for over a decade. Even at age 39 heading into the 2023 season, Rodgers continues to play at an MVP caliber level. His sustained excellence into his late 30s is extremely rare in the NFL, especially for quarterbacks who are more prone to age-related decline.
Let‘s take a comprehensive walk through Rodgers‘ life and football journey to gain insights into how he has managed to thrive after turning 35. While Rodgers hopes to emulate Tom Brady‘s feat of playing into his mid-40s, he has already cemented a legacy as one of the greatest QBs ever.
Background on Young Aaron Rodgers
Before he became a Super Bowl champion and 4-time NFL MVP, Aaron Charles Rodgers grew up in Ukiah, California in the 1990s. He was born on December 2, 1983 in Chico, California.
Rodgers starred in football at Pleasant Valley High School, throwing for over 4,000 yards in his final two seasons. He received hardly any interest from Division I colleges, so he started out at Butte College.
After one season dominating at Butte, Rodgers transferred to the University of California, Berkeley in 2003. He immediately claimed the starting QB job for Cal, throwing for 2,903 yards and 24 TDs as a sophomore. As a junior, Rodgers passed for 2,566 yards with 24 TDs and just 8 interceptions while leading Cal to a 10-1 record.
Rodgers decided to forgo his senior season and enter the 2005 NFL Draft after this breakout year. Many draft experts pegged him as a candidate to be the #1 overall pick. But as draft day approached, speculation grew that the San Francisco 49ers would select Utah QB Alex Smith first overall instead.
Infamous Draft Day Slide for Rodgers
Draft day 2005 turned out to be one of the most pivotal days in NFL history. The 49ers did take Alex Smith first overall as predicted, leaving Rodgers still on the board.
As pick after pick went by without his name being called, Rodgers sunk deeper into dismay. He was projected as a high first round talent, but slid all the way down to the Green Bay Packers at #24.
Rodgers has since described draft day as one of the "darkest moments" of his career. He watched as three other quarterbacks in Smith, Jason Campbell and Kyle Orton came off the board. Being passed up by 21 teams lit a fire within Rodgers.
Looking back, Rodgers says the infamous draft slide ended up being a blessing, allowing him to learn behind Brett Favre in Green Bay. But at the time, the wait tested Rodgers mentally and emotionally. The draft experience gave him an underdog mentality that drove his early NFL career.
Aaron Rodgers‘ Journey and Milestones with Packers
After being selected by the Packers, Rodgers spent his first three NFL seasons serving as Favre‘s backup. He made brief appearances in seven games, throwing just 59 passes over that period.
Finally in 2007, Rodgers got an opportunity when Favre temporarily retired. But Favre ultimately returned, forcing Rodgers back to the bench. It wasn‘t until 2008 when Favre departed Green Bay that Rodgers assumed the starting job at age 25.
In his first year as a starter, Rodgers proved his worth by passing for over 4,000 yards and 28 touchdowns, while completing 63.6% of his throws. He led the Packers to a 6-10 record that looked disappointing on the surface. But Rodgers demonstrated the accuracy, arm talent and leadership abilities of a franchise QB.
The 2009 season marked a major step forward, as Rodgers led Green Bay to an 11-5 record and a playoff berth. He earned Pro Bowl and All-Pro honors for the first time after throwing for 4,434 yards and 30 touchdowns.
But the 2010 campaign would prove truly special. Rodgers enjoyed an MVP season with 3,922 passing yards, 28 TDs and just 11 interceptions. More importantly, he guided the Packers to their first Super Bowl title since the late 90s Favre era. Rodgers outdueled Steelers QB Ben Roethlisberger to earn Super Bowl MVP.
In 2011, Rodgers delivered one of the most dominant QB seasons ever. He set the NFL record for passer rating in a season at 122.5 while tossing 45 touchdowns to just 6 interceptions. Rodgers claimed his first NFL MVP while leading Green Bay to a 15-1 record. Their season ended disappointingly with a home playoff loss, but Rodgers was now considered arguably the league‘s top signal caller.
Over the next decade from 2012-2021, Rodgers added two more MVPs and helped lead the Packers to consistent playoff contention. Some key moments included…
Earning league MVP in 2014 after passing for 4,381 yards and 38 TDs.
Orchestrating a 12-4 season in 2016 despite top receiver Jordy Nelson being lost for the year.
Leading a dramatic "run the table" surge in 2016 with 15 TDs and 0 INTs over the last 7 games to make the NFC Championship.
Capturing his third career MVP in 2020 at age 37 with an NFL-best 48 touchdowns while guiding Green Bay to a 13-3 record.
Winning his fourth MVP in 2021, making him just the second QB after Peyton Manning with at least four.
Yet despite so much regular season success, Rodgers and the Packers reached just one Super Bowl since their 2010 title run. Playoff disappointments left Rodgers hungry for one more championship run in Green Bay.
Forcing a Trade to the New York Jets at Age 39
After 17 record-setting seasons with the Packers, Rodgers decided he was ready for a change of scenery. In March 2022, the shocking news broke that Rodgers would be traded to the New York Jets in exchange for multiple draft picks.
Rodgers leveraged his standing as reigning MVP quarterback to essentially force Green Bay into granting his trade request. The Jets represented an enticing new challenge for Rodgers in the country‘s biggest media market late in his legendary career.
In New York, Rodgers will be tasked with mentoring young quarterback Zach Wilson while aiming to transform the Jets back into a contender. The Jets have endured an 11-season playoff drought, so Rodgers‘ veteran presence offers optimism.
Now entering his 18th NFL campaign at age 39, Rodgers is energized by the Jets‘ youthful roster, hungry fanbase and proving he still has elite years left at an advanced age for quarterbacks.
Rodgers‘ Relationship with Actress Shailene Woodley
Rodgers‘ personal life has garnered nearly as much attention as his on-field exploits in recent years. He has been in a high-profile relationship with Hollywood actress Shailene Woodley since 2020.
Rodgers and Woodley met during the pandemic in July 2020 and quickly became close. Woodley, known for roles in films such as The Fault in Our Stars and the Divergent series, is 12 years younger than Rodgers.
In February 2021, Rodgers announced the couple‘s engagement during his NFL MVP acceptance speech. But just a year later in February 2022, Rodgers revealed the engagement was off.
That split proved short-lived, as Rodgers and Woodley reconciled in April 2022. They rekindled their romance and are currently still engaged.
Rodgers has credited Woodley for helping him find an off-field purpose and learning to live in the present moment. Despite their brief breakup, Woodley seems to have had a very positive impact on Rodgers‘ life and mindset recent years.
Rodgers eyeing the Rare Feat of Playing into his 40s
Very few quarterbacks have managed to perform at a high level into their 40s. Tom Brady is the most famous example after winning a Super Bowl in 2021 at age 43. But Rodgers has also stated a goal of playing until around age 45.
For QBs more dependent on athleticism and mobility, their skills typically decline rapidly in their late 30s. But Rodgers believes his quarterbacking intelligence, fast release and athletic conditioning can allow him to thrive into his 40s like Brady.
In 2021, Rodgers said:
“I think I can play at a high level until I’m 40, and then we’ll go year to year. I mean, Tom [Brady] looks pretty unstoppable. I used to say when Tom did it, now I’ve got a chance. I’ve got to get two more Super Bowls to catch him, but it’s doable."
Rodgers understands it will become harder each year to fend off younger competition and maintain his physical gifts. But his mentality and love of the sport appears strong as ever. Backing up his words, Rodgers has already won the last two MVPs at ages 37 and 39 when many QBs are retired or declining sharply.
Barring major injury, it would not be surprising if Rodgers ends up realizing his goal and is still quarterbacking at age 45.
How Rodgers Continues to Excel at an Advanced Age
So what has allowed Rodgers to play like an elite QB well into his late 30s, a point when most are way past their prime?
First and foremost, Rodgers possesses rare natural talent in terms of arm strength, accuracy and athleticism. He can make any throw from any platform, firing lasers even when on the move. Rodgers combines those physical gifts with exceptional instincts for reading defenses pre-snap.
He also has outstanding durability, with his only major injury coming in 2017 when he missed 9 games with a broken collarbone. Some teammates and coaches have described Rodgers as a "medical miracle" for how quickly he heals and bounces back from pain.
Rodgers has adapted his workout regimen as he ages to prepare his body to take hits and sustain performance over a full season. He has become more focused on flexibility, injury prevention and meditation.
Mentally, Rodgers remains as sharp and competitive as ever. He pores over game film and is constantly seeking new ways to refine his fundamentals and mechanics. Rodgers also noted Tom Brady as inspiration that a quarterback can win championships even in his 40s.
Considering all these factors, Rodgers has been able to ward off the typical decline expected from QBs late in their careers. If anything, he appears to be aging in reverse as exhibited by his back-to-back MVPs in 2020 and 2021.
How Rodgers Compares to Other All-Time Greats Late in Their Careers
To fully appreciate Rodgers still playing at an MVP level past age 35, here is a look at how other all-time great QBs fared at the same stage:
Tom Brady – Won Super Bowl and Super Bowl MVP at age 37. At 39, threw for 4,637 yards and 34 TDs to make a Pro Bowl before winning the Super Bowl again at age 43.
Brett Favre – From ages 35-38, posted a combined record of 42-21 with 107 TDs and 72 INTs. Retired after age 40 season.
Drew Brees – At age 35, set then-NFL record with 5,476 passing yards. From 35-39, averaged 4,967 yards and 35 TDs per year while making 3 Pro Bowls.
Peyton Manning – Passed for NFL record 55 TDs at age 37 but fade late in career. Missed entire age 39 season and retired at end of age 40 year.
Joe Montana – Remained effective when healthy late in career but battled injuries and missed 31 games from 35-39. Played just one game after turning 40.
John Elway – From 35-38, made three Pro Bowls while passing for average of 3,809 yards and 27 TDs. Won back-to-back Super Bowls in final two seasons before retiring at age 38.
Compared to all-time greats, Rodgers arguably been the most impressive in sustaining top-tier production so deep into his 30s. He has clearly moved past Favre‘s levels at the same age. Brady is the only one with a strong case for superior late-career play.
And Rodgers may not be done yet. He still has the opportunity in the next 5-6 years to build on his legacy.
Projecting Rodgers‘ Future stats and Milestones
If Rodgers plays for 4-5 more seasons as he hopes, where could he end up among the league‘s career passing marks?
Rodgers currently has 55,360 career passing yards, the sixth-most all-time. He is 132 passing touchdowns behind Brady for the most ever.
At his recent yearly averages of ~4,500 yards and ~40 TDs, here is how Rodgers could finish his career:
Passing Yards: Around 65,000-70,000 total. Would likely end up top 3 all-time behind only Brady and Brees.
Passing Touchdowns: Around 525-550 total. Would pass Manning for most ever (539).
QB Wins: Around 230 total. Would rank top 5 all-time.
Passer Rating: Likely will end career with highest mark ever above Brady.
So it‘s clearly conceivable that four or five more strong seasons would allow Rodgers to own nearly every major career passing record. Of course, maintaining that level of play is far from given at his age. But just the possibility of Rodgers reaching those milestones speaks to his sustained excellence.
Rodgers‘ Life and Interests Off the Football Field
Rodgers has pursued a number of other interests and passions outside of football throughout his career, allowing him to have balance in his life.
He has become an avid reader who constantly seeks new books and perspectives to gain knowledge. Rodgers also enjoys travel in the offseason, taking trips to places like India, Antarctica and Africa.
In recent years, Rodgers has really embraced meditation and spirituality practices like yoga. He credits meditation for giving him clarity and calmness. Rodgers has made additional investments in his mental and emotional health.
Rodgers is an athlete who certainly thrives on competition. But he has found ways to keep football in perspective and realize there is more to life. The ability to step back has no doubt aided Rodgers‘ longevity by preventing burnout.
For someone later in his career, Rodgers comes across as extremely youthful and energized with his outside hobbies and endeavors. He seems to savor every opportunity on and off the field.
Conclusion – Rodgers Defying Age and Headed to the Hall of Fame
Aaron Rodgers‘ many accomplishments already make him worthy of one day being enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Yet at 39 years old, the superstar quarterback continues to perform at the height of his powers.
His late-career scoring marks, MVPs, passer rating records and possible pursuit of more championships and milestones all add to a resume few can match. Rodgers is without a doubt one of the most talented passers ever in terms of both arm talent and IQ.
The final chapters have yet to be written. But Rodgers has already cemented himself as a true gridiron great. By still playing like the best QB in football pushing 40, Rodgers is redefining assumptions about age and ability in a sport where youth has long dominated.