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And yet, even as he soaked up those lessons, there were aspects of dogma that left him dissatisfied.
"I remember asking a question as a young person about somebody in a remote rainforest," he tells me.
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The bus rolled along, and he ran it all back in his mind, then pressed rewind and visualized his entire career, retracing the steps he had taken from Chico, California, to Arlington, from beleaguered backup to Super Bowl MVP.
So now he's sitting a few feet away from me on my sofa in a black T-shirt and jeans, Stan Smiths tapping on the floor, his arm -- maybe the most valuable arm in the world -- resting on a throw pillow. When he sits down, he scans the room, his eyes flickering as he processes my books, my records, the dog toy I forgot to pick up before he arrived. So he's found himself here, on my sofa, popping probably-not-fresh berries into his mouth as the room fills with light. "Just to be understood a little bit more." the stuff of NFL legend, is best summarized as a long list of slights: A scrawny kid becomes a talented high school quarterback but fails to attract any interest from Division I schools.
Typically, writers meet their subjects at a neutral location -- somewhere a publicist has chosen to reveal something about the celebrity, like his taste in food or hobbies or charitable work. He asks me whether I've read Under the Banner of Heaven: A Story of Violent Faith (I haven't) and whether the fuzzy white figurine on my mantel is an alpaca (it's a llama) and whether the berries sitting in a bowl on my coffee table are fresh (I have no idea, but I say yes). Over the course of a few hours, he talks about the windows he's slammed shut and the ones he's cracked open, and I ask him why he feels compelled to let in any air at all. After a year in junior college, he thrives at Cal and draws hype as a potential No.
The night before, his agent had sent me his phone number, suggesting that we meet at either his place or mine. As Rodgers kept himself swaddled in bubble wrap, others started to pound away: former teammates and anonymous sources who called him aloof, bloggers who reported on every development in his relationship with actress Olivia Munn.
A couple of hours later, Rodgers texted me and told me he'd come here. His name, once the province of the sports pages, started to appear with greater regularity in the tabloids, and last summer, when his younger brother, Jordan, revealed on The Bachelorette that Aaron no longer had a relationship with the family, those stories took on a new life. But the drumbeat of gossip and innuendo kept rising, and at some point, he realized his voice was lost in the noise.
Then, not long after he became the starter in Green Bay in 2008, he met Rob Bell, a young pastor from Michigan whom the Packers invited to speak to the team.'" I ask him where this search has led him, half expecting him to reveal some second act. "I think in people's lives who grew up in some sort of organized religion, there really comes a time when you start to question things more," he says."It happens for some at an early age; others, you know, maybe a little older.But when the Packers' bus left Cowboys Stadium on that chilly night six years ago, he didn't feel like he had risen to a higher plane.Rather, he realized he was still looking for something -- for a sense of clarity, or purpose -- that was beyond his current line of sight.