Houston running back Arian Foster and Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers each faced looks of disbelief from teachers when they said they wanted to be NFL professionals, writes Mike Tierney.
Arian Foster and Aaron Rodgers still have chips on their shoulders
School is a place to learn. Two players who shepherded their teams to Round 2 of the NFL play-offs this weekend learnt, among other things, to dislike a teacher for the same reason.
The Houston tailback Arian Foster was in elementary school when the instructor asked pupils to identify their career ambition.
"Pro football player", young Arian responded.
He recalls the teacher laughing and asking: "Well, what else do you want to do?"
The slight delivered to Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay quarterback, came in a college classroom, he said.
Asked his career goal, he also said "play in the NFL".
He told ESPN Radio: "She laughed. It was a condescending laugh, and she said, 'You'll never make it'."
Elite athletes draw motivation from whatever source they can tap. They convert derision, real or perceived, into what is commonly called a chip on the shoulder. The more chips, the more incentive to prove others wrong.
Foster had such unproductive seasons at the University of Tennessee that no NFL team drafted him in 2009.
"I wouldn't have picked me either, honestly," he said. "When the draft ended, I felt like my NFL dreams did, too."
Rodgers was selected No 24 overall by the Packers, a dream scenario to most, but not to one who expected to go earlier. Especially galling was that San Francisco, the team he grew up supporting, led off the draft by selecting another quarterback, Alex Smith.
Later, he said: "It was, honestly, the best thing that happened to me. I needed a little humble pie."
In their own way, Foster and Rodgers have developed appealing personalties that supplement their on-field feats.
Foster exhibits a thirst forvariety.
He writes poems, songs and short stories, all maintained in notebooks. He spent the bye week last season visiting Occupy Wall Street protesters in New York.
He is a vegetarian.
"He marches to the beat of his own drummer," said Rick Smith, the Texans general manager.
Rodgers portrays himself as an object of humorous ridicule in popular TV commercials. The role is not a reach for a player who is comfortable laughing at himself.
On the officially declared Aaron Rodgers Day last month in Wisconsin, where Green Bay is located, teammates mocked him by wearing his jersey number (12).
TJ Lang said, sarcastically: "You've got to celebrate Aaron Rodgers as much as you can around here. He doesn't get very much credit for what he does."
Yet something burns inside Rodgers, like Foster, that dates back to their school days, when each started stocking up on chips for their shoulders.
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