Aaron Rodgers and his receivers on the national cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated

Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his corps of receivers – Jermichael Finley, James Jones, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings and Randall Cobb – appear on the national cover of this week’s Nov. 7, 2011, issue of Sports Illustrated, on newsstands now. It is the 37th time Green Bay has graced the cover. Only Dallas (48) and Pittsburgh (39) have more covers among NFL teams. The Packers’ most recent cover featured Clay Matthews on the Sept. 5, 2011 NFL Preview.

At every stage of his career, Rodgers has had an uncanny connection with his receivers – even as a high schooler in Chico, Calif. So what is it like to catch a pass from a signal-caller performing at a record-setting pace? Senior writer Tim Layden (@SITimLayden) spoke to some of the the men who have been on the receiving end of a Rodgers bullet:

  • Ruvell Martin, former Packers scout receiver: “Right before the game [vs. Kansas City in 2007] Aaron came up to me and said, ‘Why didn’t you come and throw with me?’ I told him I was inactive, and he got upset. He said, ‘I throw with you every week, when we both know I’m not going to get into the game. And you’re inactive for one game and you can’t throw with me?’ I thought, Wow, this is not all about me. This is about the team. And Aaron brought that to my attention.”
  • Burl Toler, former Cal receiver, recalling a 2003 game vs. UCLA: “We huddle on the sideline, and Coach Tedford calls the play. But then we get out on the field and Aaron says, ‘Hey, check it out, guys. Burl and [fellow wideout] Geoff [McArthur], you guys switch places.’ So we kept the play the same, but Aaron just moved us around on the fly to mess up the defense…. It makes us all feel good to see what he’s done. He’s the same as he’s always been. Except with a better beard.”
  • Shaun Bodiford, teammate at Butte College in Oroville, Calif.: “I tell Aaron, ‘Hey, you’ve got a pretty good arm.’ Then he says, ‘Watch this.’ And he starts throwing these 15-yard passes, with a tight spiral, underhanded. Then he does the same thing behind his back. Next time I saw the coach I said, ‘Hey, I think this guy should be starting.’ ”
  • Dane Baxter, teammate at Pleasant Valley High: “We had no option at quarterback other than Aaron. We needed him to be as good as he was on the jayvee. And he was. He threw the s— out of the ball, and he was just so smart. He had it all between the ears. The last game I played he threw me a touchdown pass and it was the only touchdown I scored. He was happy for me. That’s the thing: He was happy for me.”

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