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Rodgers brings Lombardi Trophy back to Green Bay

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Rodgers brings Lombardi Trophy back to Green Bay

Feb. 6, 2011
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ARLINGTON, Texas (AP) -- Forget Lombardi on Broadway. Green Bay has the newest Super Bowl hit: Aaron Rodgers.Capping one of the greatestpostseasons for any quarterback, Rodgers led the Packers to their firstNFL championship in 14 years Sunday, 31-25 over the PittsburghSteelers. The Packers reclaimed the Vince Lombardi Trophy, named fortheir legendary coach who won the first two Super Bowls and is makinghis own star turn in New York these days in the play named after him.Rodgers, the game's MVP, thrilled hislegion of Cheesehead fans with a spectacular six-game string thatshould finally erase the bitterness of the Brett Favre separation inGreen Bay. He's now equal with Favre in Super Bowl wins, and heextended the Packers' record of NFL titles to 13, nine before the SuperBowl era."It's what I dreamt about as a little kid watching Joe Montana and Steve Young," Rodgers said, "and we just won the Super Bowl."
The former Cal standout threw for threetouchdowns, two to Greg Jennings, and the Packers (14-6) overcame evenmore injuries, building a 21-3 lead, then hanging on to become thesecond No. 6 seed to win the championship. Coincidentally, the 2005Steelers were the other.
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Rodgers threw for 304 yards,including a 29-yard touchdown to Jordy Nelson, who had nine catches for140 yards to make up for three big drops. Rodgers found Jennings,normally his favorite target, for 21- and 8-yard scores."Wow! It's a great day to be great, baby," Jennings said.Then the favored Packers held on as Pittsburgh (14-5) stormed back."We've been a team that's overcomeadversity all year," Jennings said, who noted injuries to CharlesWoodson and Donald Driver. "Our head captain goes down, emotional inthe locker room. Our No. 1 receiver goes down, more emotions are going,flying in the locker room. But we find a way to bottle it up and exertit all out here on the field."Few teams have been as resourcefulas these Packers, who couldn't wait to touch the trophy honoring theirgreatest coach -- and their title. Several of them kissed it as Cowboysgreat Roger Staubach walked through a line of green and gold."Vince Lombardi is coming back to Green Bay," NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell said as the silver prize was handed to the team.After sitting for three seasons,Rodgers took the Packers to two late-season victories just to make theplayoffs as a wild card. Then he guided them to wins at Philadelphia,Atlanta and archrival Chicago before his biggest achievement -- againsta Pittsburgh team ranked second in defense.
CURRAN: Greatness eludes Roethlisberger on final driveThey barely survived a sensationalrally by the Steelers, who still own the most Super Bowl rings -- six ineight tries. But Pittsburgh failed to get its third championship in sixyears with quarterback Ben Roethlisberger. Roethlisberger's seasonbegan with a four-game suspension for violating the NFL's personalconduct policy. It ended with Roethlisberger standing on the sideline,his head down, hands on his hips, feeling something he neverexperienced: defeat in a Super Bowl. "I feel like I let the city ofPittsburgh down, the fans, my coaches and my teammates," Roethlisbergersaid, "and it's not a good feeling."
Not even a decidedly black-and-goldcrowd, with Terrible Towels swirling throughout the 1.2 billionstadium, could make a difference for the mistake-prone Steelers. Theirtwo biggest defensive stars -- Defensive Player of the Year safety TroyPolamalu and outside linebacker James Harrison -- were virtuallyinvisible. The offense didn't seem to miss outstanding rookie centerMaurkice Pouncey, who was out with an ankle injury, but Roethlisbergeronly occasionally made key plays until the second half.
RELATED: Polamaulu, Harrison silent in Super BowlThe biggest plays were left toRodgers, Nick Collins with a 37-yard interception return for a TD,Jennings, Nelson, and the rest of the guys in green and gold. In theend, they gave coach Mike McCarthy his first Super Bowl victory againstthe team he rooted for while growing up in Pittsburgh. BesidesLombardi, Mike Holmgren won a title in 1997 with Favre."This is a great group of men here, a lot of character," Rodgers said. "We went through a lot together."Even on Sunday, they did. Woodsonwent out late in the first half with a collarbone injury, a few playsafter Driver was sidelined with an ankle problem."It was very difficult to watch," Woodson said, "but it feels good now."Woodson saw the Steelers, whorallied from a 21-7 halftime hole against Baltimore three weeks ago,show the same resilience. A 37-yard catch and run by Antwaan Randle El -- an almost forgotten figure during his return season with just 22receptions -- sparked a quick 77-yard drive. Hines Ward, the 2006 SuperBowl MVP, had 39 yards on three catches during the series, including an8-yard TD when he completely fooled Jarrett Bush.A quick defensive stop and a 50-yarddrive to Rashard Mendenhall's 8-yard touchdown run made it 21-17. Butwith Pittsburgh driving for perhaps its first lead of the game,Mendenhall was stripped at the Green Bay 33 by Clay Matthews -- one ofthe few plays the All-Pro linebacker made. The Packers recovered, andRodgers hit Jennings for 8 yards and the winning points.Pittsburgh's last gasp was on a25-yard touchdown pass to Mike Wallace and a brilliant pitchout byRoethlisberger to Randle El for a 2-point conversion.
RELATED: Rash of turnovers costly for Pittsburgh
Mason Crosby added a 23-yard field goal for the Packers and the Steelers had no more comebacks in them."You play to be world champions," Matthews said, "and that's what we are today."

What they’re saying: Congratulations to Andre Ward

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Gary Brown never recovered on the field from 2015 DFA: ‘Hurt me to my core’

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AP

Gary Brown never recovered on the field from 2015 DFA: ‘Hurt me to my core’

There was a time when Gary Brown was considered the Giants’ top prospect – their center fielder of the future. Hype was never higher than in 2011, when the fleet-footed 22-year-old set a franchise record with 188 hits in 131 games, earning California League Rookie of the Year honors with the San Jose Giants in his first full minor league campaign.

But six seasons and seven major league at-bats later, Brown’s professional baseball career ended at 28 years old.

“I feel like I let my emotions get the best of me in the years after that (2011 season),” Brown told NBC Sports Bay Area in an exclusive phone interview. “I think I started to believe the hype that everyone started to give to me.”

Brown never matched his magical .336-season in High-A ball with 14 home runs plus 53 stolen bases, and then struggled finding a routine with the rigors of the Pacific Coast League’s travel schedule once he reached Triple-A. Despite three hits in his seven at-bats as a September call-up with the Giants in 2014, Brown was designated for assignment on March 31, 2015.

Brown’s career spiraled playing the draining waiver game. Unsuccessful stints with the Cardinals and Angels sent Brown to the land of the last chance: Independent ball in the Atlantic League.

“It was not fun for me for quite a few years. I wasn’t a very happy person,” Brown said. “After I got DFA'd by the Giants, that really took a toll on me. I never really recovered from that, so I was kind of stuck in the past and things kind of just got away from me. 

“I was kind of heartbroken to be honest. I mean, it hurt me to my core.”

Through tumultuous career turns, the Southern California native never turned on the team that drafted him 24th overall in 2010.

“I'm thankful for the opportunity the Giants gave me. No matter how big or small mine was, I am very thankful” Brown said emphatically. “I definitely wish I could have shown what I feel like my true potential was, but it didn't work out that way. 

“I still root for the Giants. All my friends with the Giants, I'm still pulling for them. They run that organization so well. I have no ill intentions or anything bad to say about the Giants organization.” 

Far removed from his days with the Giants, Brown found new life with the Southern Maryland Blue Crabs in 2016. Brown batted .249 and returned to the team in 2017. He started strong with a .298 batting average in 31 games while having fun for the first time in years, but injuries struck at an inopportune time.

Chronic aches in his hip joints and intense back spasms, in addition to a frustrating lack of interest from MLB teams and the fact he and his wife had twins on the way, spurred Brown to retirement in the middle of the season on July 5.

“Retirement has nothing to do with the lack of competitiveness (of the Atlantic League). It was the distance and the time away, matching the minor league salary,” Brown said. “Going back to that makes it really hard on the family and when you get older it really becomes about what you value more.”

The player he once was is gone, but the person he is has only grown. There’s one piece of advice which goes beyond the diamond that Brown was sure to pass on to the next wave of future top Giants prospects.

“Never stop making adjustments,” Brown said ruefully.

Days away from turning 29 on Sept. 28 and out of baseball for the first time in his life, Brown is certainly making his own.

***

Part 2 of our interview with Gary Brown focusing on where he is now in his life will be released Friday on NBCSportsBayArea.com.