GREEN BAY, Wis. – Aaron Rodgers is the Green Bay Packers’ nominee for the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award, the NFL announced on Thursday.
The award, which recognizes players who exemplify outstanding sportsmanship on the field, was created in 2014 in honor of the late founding owner of the Pittsburgh Steelers and Pro Football Hall of Famer Art Rooney Sr.
Rodgers is having a superlative season for the Packers, who are 8-3 entering Sunday’s game against the Philadelphia Eagles. Rodgers, who turned 37 on Wednesday, leads the NFL in passer rating and is on pace for a career-high 48 touchdown passes. Just as importantly, the team has followed his lead.
“I think in general the offense really falls in line under my leadership and the leadership that we’ve had over the years with the big guys kind of voicing things,” Rodgers said on Wednesday.
“I think about when we had T.J. (Lang) and Josh (Sitton) here, there wasn’t a whole lot of side conversations, side comments, because those dudes weren’t afraid to sock anybody. If somebody needed to be put in line – I’m not saying we had a bunch of fights around here, we haven’t – there was that fear factor that came with those guys’ leadership, and I always appreciated that. Obviously, Charles Woodson, one of the greatest we had, not only an incredible player but kind of a scary guy. You didn’t want to get on his bad side. I think you need that policing with leadership where guys understand how important it is to be a good teammate. I think the beauty in roles is that a lot of them are earned in practice.”
A panel of former players from the NFL Legends Community – Warrick Dunn, Pro Football Hall of Famer Curtis Martin, Karl Mecklenburg and Leonard Wheeler – will select eight finalists (four in the AFC and four in the NFC) from the 32 nominees. The eight finalists will be listed on the Pro Bowl ballot under the NFL Sportsmanship Award category when players vote on Friday, Dec. 18.
The award is presented each year to an NFL player who best demonstrates the qualities of on-field sportsmanship, including fair play, respect for the game and opponents, and integrity in competition.
The winner of the Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award is determined by a vote of current NFL players. From the eight finalists, each team’s players will submit a consensus vote of their choice for the winner. As in Pro Bowl voting, a team cannot vote for its own player.
The winner will be announced as part of NFL Honors. He will receive a $25,000 donation from the NFL Foundation to a charity of his choice.
Starting from its inception in 2014, the winners have been Cardinals receiver Larry Fitzgerald, Raiders defensive back Charles Woodson, Colts running back Frank Gore, Panthers linebacker Luke Kuechly, Saints quarterback Drew Brees and, last year, Washington running back Adrian Peterson.
Green Bay’s nominees were Jordy Nelson in 2014, Julius Peppers in 2015 and 2016, Morgan Burnett in 2017 and Tramon Williams the past two seasons.
The 32 nominees: