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Subscriber Exclusive SUPER BOWL XLV: AN ORAL HISTORY

'You've got to enjoy this.’ As years pass, Packers learn to treasure Super Bowl XLV title

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The 2010 Green Bay Packers were a special group. The tougher their luck got, the tougher they got. The further injuries tore them apart, the closer they became. They learned from every loss and built upon every victory.

Many of them watched the 2019 and ’20 Packers fall one victory short of going to the Super Bowl and they talked about how fragile every season is and how rare are the occasions when everything falls into place.

If they had advice for the current team, it would be to never let another chance slip through their fingers. Many thought they would be back to the Super Bowl again, but the fact is only one player from the 2010 team (Derrick Martin) has ever won another ring.

That one season, they were the best team in the NFL.

Ten years after the crowning achievement of their football careers, members of that team remember specific parts of the season and the run to the Super Bowl differently. They had different perspectives. Their careers went in different directions. Some players left in free agency, some were released, some were still wearing the Packers uniform when they played their last game.

And two — quarterback Aaron Rodgers and kicker Mason Crosby — are still playing for the Packers.

The one thing they all share is ownership of a Super Bowl ring.

Aaron Rodgers
People ask me all the time, 'How come you haven't watched the Super Bowl ever?' I always say, 'I've got all the memories right here, man.' They stay fresh on the brain.

Rodgers: “I might pull it out once a year maybe. I don't look at it a whole lot. It's a special relic from a special season. A lot of great memories that year. A lot of great personalities. That group had so many interesting guys from Howard Green driving his car from New York down to, I think, Mississippi or Louisiana where he's from, and then re-routing and coming to us. Just, what a great personality he was. B.J. Raji and everything he brought to the table. My dear friend A.J. Hawk being such a rock for us. Charles Woodson and the speeches late in the year. Matt Wilhelm joining our card game on the roads and what he did for our special teams that year. James Starks coming off PUP when everyone was wondering who the heck this guy was from Buffalo and rushing for 100 yards in the first game of the playoffs. Jordy (Nelson) coming into his own, really, in the Super Bowl and kind of making that a trampoline for his career, becoming our No. 1 for a number of years and just what a big game he had. Greg (Jennings) and the big plays we had in the Super Bowl, squeezing that one in in between (Ryan) Clark and (Troy) Polamalu and then him talking about wanting a corner route, which ended up being the winning score and hitting him down the middle on third and 10 on 27 Tampa. A lot of great memories. The embraces after the game with Mike (McCarthy), Clay (Matthews) and John Kuhn and (Andrew) Quarless. It's special, special moments that kind of stick in your brain. People ask me all the time, 'How come you haven't watched the Super Bowl ever?' I always say, 'I've got all the memories right here, man.' They stay fresh on the brain.”

Center Scott Wells: “Well, I mean, it's weird. We won it and then it was the lockout (of 2011) and we didn’t really get to celebrate it fully. And then 10 years later, when we're supposed to all come back, have the 10-year reunion (at Lambeau Field), it’s COVID, so we've been hit twice with not being able to celebrate it. Hopefully at 20 years maybe we'll be able to celebrate it. And I've been back a handful of times, but I know this year was supposed to be a big deal for the 10-year anniversary. And obviously nobody being at the games made it so they couldn't do it.”

Fullback John Kuhn: “So there were guys all around that team, really starting their career together here. And rarely do you get to start your career and have the success that we did. And we were almost naive enough as a young team, all of us getting our experience to not really know the magnitude of the depth of the games that we were playing in. And we were able to roll through all of that without any nerves, without any kind of 'What-ifs.' Because to us, we were doing everything for the first time, really. And I think sometimes teams that have this experience and have this depth that haven't won, they can feel that pressure. But for us, we didn't. You're talking about 90-100 guys that were a part of this special moment.”

Nelson: “That's one thing I have not done have yet is watch the Super Bowl and definitely have not watched the all-22, like what our normal game films would be. So, I've caught the reruns of it and what not, but I definitely have not watched, like watch it like I would have watched a normal game film. Personally, I'd sit there and pick it apart and get mad at myself for different things, like the drops or bad routes. It's like we won the game, we won the Super Bowl. There's no reason to make it worse, you know? Keep it as a positive and move on. It’s probably where I have seen the whole thing through different clips. But I've yet to sit down and watch it from play one to play 56 or whatever it was.”

Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy gets the traditional Gatorade dunk after winning Super Bowl XLV against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, February 6, 2011.
Green Bay Packers head coach Mike McCarthy gets the traditional Gatorade dunk after winning Super Bowl XLV against the Pittsburgh Steelers in Arlington, Texas, Sunday, February 6, 2011.
Benny Sieu/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

McCarthy: “I had never watched the TV copy of the game until my year off (in 2019). One morning my kids had the TV on, it was on YouTube. I don’t watch YouTube, and it said Packers vs. Steelers, so I sat and watched the game. I was just so impressed with the way our guys played, because the one thing that jumped out of me was how we all were (focused) as players and coaches. You’re so into your own team, so into what you need to do and how you need to play. Just sitting there live with the TV copy, that was a great Steelers football team we beat.”

Tackle Bryan Bulaga: “Towards that end of the week I remember talking to (left tackle Chad) Clifton. He was like, ‘You know, you've got to enjoy this.’ I vividly remember it because I've always thought back to this and told any younger guy that asked about the playoffs. And he said like, ‘You need to take advantage of this and enjoy this whole week because this doesn't happen. This isn't something that happens all the time. You don't win five straight to get into (the Super Bowl). Things like that just don't always happen, so just enjoy this, enjoy the moment’ and that's something that I'll always remember because it stuck in my head so vividly as I progressed throughout my career. We got close but never got back. It's tough to think about that because there's so many years where we should have been there, we just couldn't get it done. It always reminds me thinking back to that Friday talk with Chad about that.”

Defensive coordinator Dom Capers: “That ring means far more than anything else because it symbolizes that you were the best. The best in the world that year. And I think with the tradition of Green Bay, the fact it was the fourth Super Bowl for them and I know at the celebration when I got up and spoke, I said a lot of you don't realize that I've been involved in the last two Packers Super Bowls. I said that I helped them get the one before because I was a head coach at Carolina and they beat us in the championship game (in ’96). I said that ‘if you can't beat them, join them, alright?’ So it was nice being able to go into Lambeau after losing the championship game as a Super Bowl champion and (win) the next Super Bowl championship for the Green Bay Packers.”

Inside linebacker A.J. Hawk: “There is so much that has to be in line, that has to go right for you to get to the Super Bowl. Just to get there. And then to win is a whole other thing. So, I think that team, whatever it is that our team had — I'm sure it wasn't the most talented team we'd had in my time there, but there's something about it, something about the grittiness, the toughness of the guys and how coach McCarthy kind of cultivated that whole culture, I think, was something that just all came together right that year.”

James Jones
I learned that, No. 1, it's extremely hard to get back, but No. 2, don't take it for granted.

Jones: “I learned not to take it for granted because we never got back. So, when you look back on it now and you say 10 years and we haven't been back, I learned not to take it for granted. And I learned that the very next year when we were 15-1, thinking that you're going to back-to-back Super Bowls, you can't be stopped, you're unstoppable, and we ended up losing. I learned that, No. 1, it's extremely hard to get back, but No. 2, don't take it for granted. It was kind of a moment to where you didn't really embrace it and enjoy it like that because you're so focused on getting ready for the game. And that's why I tell everybody now that are going to the Super Bowl, the guys that I talked to that were on their way to the Super Bowl, I'm like man, even though it's your first one, enjoy it. You know? Enjoy it. Embrace it. Embrace the interviews. Embrace all the stuff that's going on around you. Embrace it because you might not get back and you want to be able to enjoy this moment, man. Bring as many family members as you possibly can because you never know if you're gonna get another opportunity to have this feeling and be a part of this game again.”

Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson, right, hugs fellow receiver James Jones after the Packers defeated the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV in Arlington, Texas, on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011.
Green Bay Packers receiver Jordy Nelson, right, hugs fellow receiver James Jones after the Packers defeated the Steelers in Super Bowl XLV in Arlington, Texas, on Sunday, Feb. 6, 2011.
Tom Lynn/Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

Nelson: “And I think I said before, like every time we would lose the following years, I appreciated the Super Bowl. I know a lot of people were always like, man, after they win one, are they going to be complacent? Are they going to have the same drive? I think you have more of a drive then you did before. Just because you know what it was like, you want No. 2. Because I mean, No. 2, I think that separates you from a whole group of people. Winning a second one, I think even is just as big, if not bigger. But every time we’d lose, if it was the first round, NFC championship game, not make the playoffs, you know how much stuff you had to do to get back to that opportunity, to just have a chance to make it.”

Crosby: “After I think back, that was my fourth year in the NFL. Still just kind of keeping my head down, working, going, trying to figure this whole thing out and I felt like the mentality of our team was almost that. It was just like we had so many injuries, guys in key positions going down, guys stepping up and at that time making a name for themselves and I look at that and I just think of one word, honestly, all the time: resiliency. That team was resilient.”

Wells: “It's special. I'm not going to downplay it. I have pictures up. But the funny thing is all the pictures I have from the Super Bowl, I don’t think I have one that one of my kids is not in. They’re all pictures from after the game with the kids. You know, I'm more focused on it as this was an outstanding experience. Obviously, when you do it, when you're able to achieve something like that, especially with an organization like Green Bay, you are part of a brotherhood forever. And we still get together. We still talk about it. And especially, even if you haven't seen somebody on that team in 10 years, when you see them again, it's as if you saw them yesterday.”

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