Inside Aaron Rodgers’ ”Complicated” Relationship With His Family: How a Close Bond Formed Over Football & Faith Ended Up Broken
Aaron Rodgers‘ parents say they haven’t talked to their NFL star son for more than two years. They may not even have his cell phone number.
Presumably those closest to Rodgers, such as girlfriend Olivia Munn, were aware that they had stopped talking. Their family dynamic didn’t make headlines, however, until the Super Bowl winner’s brother, Jordan Rodgers, revealed while appearing on (and ultimately “winning”) The Bachelorette that he and his brother were estranged.
“I know who Jordan is. And I know who he is to me,” JoJo Fletcher, who would accept Jordan’s proposal on the season finale, said on the show. “He is nobody’s brother. He is a man that I am falling in love with and I am crazy about.”
And that’s great, but in any universe other than the Bachelorverse, Aaron is the big star, a Super Bowl winner in 2011, and famously private. He’s walked red carpets with Munn, but that’s where his relationship history starts as far as him ever publicly acknowledging that he has a personal life.
But while family issues with people who go on The Bachelor (or with anyone, really) are a dime a dozen, Aaron being both perennially in the spotlight and a bit of a sports world cipher make him a frequent object of fascination—not least when his Packers are pulling off last-second wins over Dallas and are now headed to yet another NFC Championship Game this Sunday.
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“Fame can change things,” Ed, a onetime college football player turned chiropractor in Chico—the northern California town where Aaron, older brother Luke and baby bro Jordan all grew up and where Aaron is still the hometown hero—told the paper.
But Aaron Rodgers has been famous for a really long time.
Ten years before this as-yet unnavigable rift opened up, Rodgers was the star quarterback who had revived Cal’s football program from the dead, leading the Golden Bears to a 10-1 record in 2004, and was inevitably bound for the NFL.
“That’s why when he goes into the draft, it will be a dream come true for him,” said brother Luke, who was also an athlete and is now an NFL analyst and co-owner of sports merchandise company Pro Merch. “I don’t think it’s set in yet. But in his mind, he’s always thought it would happen. It wasn’t so much a dream as it was his plan.”
Luke and Aaron, 19 months apart and both whizzes at football and basketball, would compete as brothers do, but sometimes their at-home football drills, presided over by Ed, would get so heated they had to call it a night.
“We always played a game called Pass Pattern,” Ed told Chico’sNews Review in 2004. “One would be the receiver, I’d be the quarterback, the other would be the DB, and they’d try to guard each other. It got real competitive.”
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“Christmastime at my house—holiday times—you watched bowl games,” Rogers in 2004, recalling Cal’s win the previous season in the Insight Bowl. “I watched every bowl game when I was growing up. It was amazing that I was playing in a bowl game—something I’d always dreamed about doing.”
“We feel really blessed,” Ed Rodgers told the paper when, ironically, his unstoppable son had become Cal football’s savior. “I can’t talk about his road without really talking about our faith as a family…That’s an important part. I try not to leave it out.”
“We’re a very strong Christian family,” Aaron agreed. “I know they’re always praying for me, so it’s encouraging.” He added, “If something goes wrong with football, I have a great family to fall back on. I have a great city that’s supported me, which has been unbelievable. I have great friends who care about me regardless if we win or lose or how good I play.”
Aaron continued, “Me and my brother [Luke] used to always talk about, ‘We’re going to be NBA stars,’ ‘We’re going to be NFL stars.’ That was always a dream of ours, and Mom and Dad never shot it down.”
Ed said he and Darla would watch Jordan play his high school games on Friday nights and watch Aaron do his thing on Saturdays—and they attended all of Cal’s home games that year.
“He puts so much thought into everything that I have a lot of confidence in his decision,” Ed Rodgers said. “I know it won’t be based on chance. He’s not shallow, he’s definitely a deep thinker.”
And though Green Bay, Wis., is quite a ways from Chico, the Rodgers family seemingly remained as close as could be, at least as far as Aaron having a built-in support system went.
Ed, Darla, Luke Jordan and his maternal grandparents, Barbara andChuck Pittman, were all there when the Packers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers to win Super Bowl XLV in 2011, three years after Rodgers had taken the team reins from superstar Brett Favre. Rodgers threw for 304 yards for three touchdowns with no interceptions and was named MVP of the game.
Interviewing him before the big game in Arlington, Texas, a writer for Dallas News‘ Sports Day noted that there was no evidence in Ed’s chiropractic office of who his son was.
“Just my way, I guess,” Aaron’s father said “I don’t go strutting my stuff. People here kind of know me and what’s happening.” That being said, he couldn’t have sounded prouder.
“I knew Aaron had a special gift,” Ed also told The New York Timesbefore the game, “but you never think your kid is going to wind up in the Super Bowl.”
The elder Rodgers also told a story about a friend of his who complimented Aaron on his game. “Aaron was like: ‘Yeah, but you should see my brother. He’s better.’ The gentleman turned to me and said, ‘You know, that response is really rare.'” Ed added, “Aaron has always had this interesting combination of being really humble and extremely confident.”
“Let me tell you about being protective, I had to check myself so many times,” Luke said when recalling his reaction to criticism of his brother’s football skills. “I’m his older brother and I want to protect him. People say things to my face, it’s so crazy. My first instinct is to want to pound somebody…I had to learn that’s kind of what happens, you have to have thick skin. But that doesn’t go away, either. It still fires me up. Hearing people talk about your family members in ways that are less than cordial.”
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“We all know of Rodgers, and we’re all fans of his and that he’s really a down to earth human being,” one of the event’s organizers, Tom Benning, told Milwaukee’s Journal-Sentinel at the time. “The apple doesn’t fall far from the tree.”
The paper printed a photo of Ed and Aaron sharing a hearty handshake. “It’s amazing that they came all the way out here from California, but I don’t think they were planning on coming to training camp,” Benning also said. “They’re here for the kids.”
To unwind he played guitar, he watched Jeopardy!, he golfed. But otherwise, all football, all the time.
“I spend a lot of time each week, just making sure I’m ready to play the game,” he told The New York Times in 2011. “I want my teammates to know I’m the most prepared guy on the field.”
But in 2014, Aaron started dating Olivia Munn—and their coupling has been the convenient answer to “what changed?!” between Rodgers and the rest of his family.
“Aaron doesn’t really…I don’t think he’s really talked with his brother,” she told Entertainment Tonight. “So, I actually don’t know. It’s complicated—I’ll say that.”
“The family says Aaron stopped talking to them,” a source told Us Weekly last August, once Jordan had talked about it on the show. “While Aaron says they don’t talk because his family doesn’t like Olivia.”
Meanwhile, there is no obvious, on-the-record moment that would lead to Aaron Rodgers cutting ties.
Bleach Report reported in November that the Christmas presents Rodgers’ parents sent him and Munn were returned unopened, that family members had been informed they weren’t welcome in Green Bay at games and that Rodgers didn’t attend his grandfather Chuck’s funeral. The recent NY Times story stated that Rodgers’ parents didn’t dispute the info in the Bleacher Report article.
“We all have a platform, we all have a message in our lives,” Rodgerstold reporters on Media Day before the 2011 Super Bowl. “I just try to follow Jesus’ example, leading by example.”
More recently, Rodgers irked Russell Wilson, who is also very religious, when he said in September 2015, “I think God was a Packers fan tonight, so he was taking care of us,” after a win over Wilson’s Seattle Seahawks.
“I think that in terms of that comment in all that, you know everybody has a right to their own opinion,” Wilson said, taking Rodgers’ comments to heart. “I know for me, I’m just grateful that God has given me the opportunity to play the great game of football, I’m so grateful.”
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“I don’t think God cares a whole lot about the outcome,” Rodgers had said earlier that year on ESPN radio after a Packers loss to the Seahawks in the 2015 NFC Championship Game. “He cares about the people involved, but I don’t think he’s a big football fan.”
After which Wilson reiterated, before the Super Bowl (which ended in a heartbreaking Seahawks loss to the Patriots), “I think God cares about football. I think God cares about everything he created.”
And he certainly isn’t giving any reasons now.
“I just don’t think it’s appropriate talking about family stuff publicly,” Rodgers told reporters Thursday at the Packers’ practice facility. Asked if Jordan would be coming to Sunday’s playoff game, he said, “I don’t know. I really don’t.”
“Airing public laundry is not what I would have chosen,” Ed Rodgerstold The New York Times last weekend. But, “It’s good to have it all come out.”
“It’s complicated,” he added. “We’re all hoping for the best.”
And it’s unclear which part of the fame game that Ed was referring to could have changed things so much.
Luke Rodgers said in 2011, before Aaron was dating actresses and starring in State Farm commercials and yet was still the winner of a Super Bowl ring: “At some point we’re all going to be done playing and have quasi-normal lives…And I’m going to have my brothers forever. That’s really the reality of it.”
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