From not getting a big-time college scholarship out of high school to his agonizing wait on draft day, Aaron Rodgers always has drawn motivation from those who overlooked or discounted him.
That no-respect mantra might be a stretch now for the Super Bowl MVP, a leader of the NFL's only undefeated team and on track to break some single-season records for quarterbacks. Going into the Green Bay Packers’ game Sunday at San Diego, no conversation about the NFL's best quarterbacks is complete without mentioning Rodgers and taking a close look at his game.
But as the accolades roll in, Rodgers remembers those who didn't think he could do it.
''I still have a great memory,'' Rodgers said Wednesday. ''The goals I set for myself change, I think, every year a little bit. I try and improve on the previous year and learn from the mistakes I made. But when I got drafted, I had a chip on my shoulder, and I've still got it there. So there's a lot of motivation left in that chip.''
Rodgers was anything but a hot prospect coming out of high school, playing a season at Butte College, a junior college near his hometown of Chico, Calif., before getting his chance at California. Rodgers played his way into a top NFL prospect from there — then had to wait for the Packers to take him at No. 24 overall in the 2005 draft.
His extended stay in the bench ended in 2008, when the team made the then-painful decision to trade Brett Favre to the New York Jets. Packers fans treated Rogers with skepticism, and he was even booed during a preseason scrimmage.
Rodgers has repaid the faith of Packers general manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy, leading Green Bay to a title last season. And Rodgers has been dominant in the Packers' first seven games this season, throwing for 2,372 yards with 20 touchdowns and three interceptions.
He has completed 71.5 percent of his passes and has a quarterback rating of 125.7, putting him ahead of Drew Brees' single-season completion percentage mark of 70.62 percent in 2009 and Peyton Manning's single-season quarterback rating mark of 121.1 set in 2004.
Now Rodgers and his receivers are being featured on the cover of Sports Illustrated this week, and Rodgers is hearing all about it from his offensive line.
''Josh Sitton and some of the linemen were a little upset that we couldn't get those guys in,'' Rodgers. ''I told them the frame was a little bit small for that. But I'm glad that they put seven of us on there, and there's a lot more guys who are contributors on this team. But it's good for those guys to be recognized, and it's fun to share the spotlight.''
Guard T.J. Lang joked that Rodgers' offensive line never had a shot at such glory.
''O-linemen never get any love,'' Lang said.
Rodgers' line has done just fine, though, providing enough protection despite losing veteran guard Daryn Colledge to free agency in the offseason, then losing longtime left tackle Chad Clifton to a hamstring injury in the Oct. 9 victory at Atlanta.
Rodgers' protection and talented wide receivers are helping him put up numbers worth of MVP consideration, although he isn't willing to entertain that thought right now.
''It's Week 9,'' Rodgers said. ''We're going into Week 9. I think we're a long way from any of those awards or anything. We always talk about, if we take care of the team goals, then the individual goals kind of follow.''
That said, Rodgers thinks he and the rest of the offense can play even better.
''I think so,'' Rodgers said. ''This offseason, one of my goals was to decrease the space between a good game and a poor game. I'm looking forward to doing that and improving on that. I just feel like for 60 minutes, we all can play a little bit more consistently.''
McCarthy believes his quarterback is capable of more.
''Aaron's working to improve every single day, and it's reflected in the quarterback individual drills that (quarterbacks coach) Tom Clements does week in and week out,'' McCarthy said. ''But he is playing at an extremely high level. The numbers speak for themselves, but this week will be a challenge for us in San Diego.''
Follow Associated Press writer Chris Jenkins on Twitter at twitter.com/ByChrisJenkins.