The top two players in the NFL as voted by their peers in the Top 100 Players of 2015 have a big Wisconsin connection. I’m talking about defensive end J.J. Watt of the Houston Texans and quarterback Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers.
Watt is a Wisconsin native who played some great football at the state’s top school, the University of Wisconsin. Rodgers is a California native who played his college football at the University of California and was also outstanding there. But in the NFL, Rodgers has been with the Packers for 10 years (seven years as a starter), plus has been a huge supporter of the men’s basketball program at Wisconsin.
Watt and Rodgers deserve to be rated No. 1 and No. 2, as they certainly warranted that recognition for not only the seasons they had in 2014, but also because of the stellar careers that they both have had thus far in the NFL.
In 2014, Watt was named Defensive Player of the Year for good reason. No. 99 had 78 total tackles, 29 tackles for a loss, 20.5 sacks (one for a safety), 60 quarterback knockdowns, 31.5 quarterback hurries, four forced fumbles, five fumble recoveries, one interception and two defensive touchdowns.
If that wasn’t enough, the former Badger also caught three passes on offense. All of those catches were for touchdowns.
In his career, Watt already has 57 sacks in just four years. Watt also has 37 passes deflected in his time in Houston, plus has 12 forced fumbles and 11 fumble recoveries.
Watt has not missed a game in his NFL career either. The Defensive Player of the Year award in 2014 was the second time Watt received that honor, as he also won in 2012. Watt has also been named to the Pro Bowl three times (2012, 2013 and 2014) and been named first-team All-Pro three times (2012, 2013 and 2014).
Rodgers has been equally exceptional. In 2014, No. 12 won the NFL MVP award. For the season, Rodgers threw 38 touchdown passes versus just five interceptions for 4,381 yards. That adds up to a 112.2 passer rating.
Rodgers also ran for 269 yards and two more scores.
Rodgers also played hurt. In Week 8 against the Saints in New Orleans, Rodgers strained a hamstring. In Week 16 versus the Bucs in Tampa, Rodgers strained a calf muscle, which he ended up tearing a week later against Detroit at Lambeau Field.
In that game against the Lions, Rodgers had to leave the game for awhile due to the injury, but came back to lead the Packers to victory and the NFC North divisional crown.
Like Watt, Rodgers has had a fantastic career. In his time in Green Bay, Rodgers has thrown 226 touchdown passes versus just 57 picks for 28,578 yards.
No. 12 has excellent mobility and he uses that skill quite well, as he has rushed for 1,831 yards and 20 touchdowns in his NFL career.
Under his leadership, the Packers have won four NFC North titles in a row, plus won Super Bowl XLV the year before that streak started. In that Super Bowl contest, Rodgers was the game MVP, as he threw three touchdown passes without a pick for 304 yards. In all, the Packers have played in the postseason for six consecutive years with Rodgers at quarterback.
Just to show you how good Rodgers is, all you need to do is look at the all-time NFL career passer rating leaders. Rodgers leads the way with a 106.0 rating. In fact, Rodgers is the only quarterback to have a rating over 100.
Rodgers has also been very good in the postseason. No. 12 is third on the list with a 101.0 rating, only behind Bart Starr (104.8) and Kurt Warner (102.8).
The NFL MVP award Rodgers won in 2014 was his second, as he also won in 2011. Rodgers has also been named to four Pro Bowls (2009, 2011, 2012 and 2014) and been named first-team All-Pro twice (2011 and 2014).
Rodgers has also built up a great friendship with Sam Dekker, who was recently selected by the Houston Rockets in the NBA draft after having a great career at Wisconsin.
Dekker is a Sheboygan, Wisconsin native who was also named the West Regional Most Outstanding Player leading up to this year’s Final Four .
Rodgers was often a spectator watching the Badgers play in the NCAA tournament the past couple of seasons, as Wisconsin made it to the Final Four for two consecutive years, which included the finals this past April.
Watt has also been a big supporter of Wisconsin hoops, just like Rodgers.
Coincidentally, Dekker will play in the same city where Watt now makes a living. I’m sure Watt will show his fellow Badger around the town in Houston and get him comfortable in his new digs.
Having friends like Watt and Rodgers can only help the career of Dekker in the NBA.
When you learn from the best, you have a chance to become the best.
And Watt and Rodgers are definitely the best!