GREEN BAY, Wis. — Being a successful quarterback for the Green Bay Packers means a lot of things for Aaron Rodgers. And while money and fame are certainly part of the job, one aspect of it that Rodgers takes very seriously is as a role model. This week, Rodgers found out that sometimes the effect he has on people as a role model can take a unique twist.
David Pehl, an 11-year-old boy from the small village of Holmen in western Wisconsin, has been wearing Rodgers’ jersey for 1,041 days and counting. Since David opened the gift from his parents on Christmas Day 2010 and found the jersey inside, it’s made up the entirety of his wardrobe.
“It’s flattering, it really is,” Rodgers told FOXSportsWisconsin.com. “It’s humbling as well, that people care about you enough to do that. I think it reminds you the kind of impact you can have on people if you conduct yourself the right way.”
Part of the reason that David gravitated towards Rodgers is the same reason that most Packers fans do: Because Rodgers is a really good quarterback. But there’s more to it than that. David has seen the way that Rodgers acts off the field and said “he seems like a nice guy.”
So, once David had the jersey of his favorite player and role model, he had no intentions of wearing anything else for a long, long, long time.
“David put it on (when he first got the jersey), went to sleep in it, then the next day came and went,” said Dave Pehl, David’s father. “OK, this is OK, he’s still wearing it, no big deal. Then, a third day, a fourth day; soon it was a couple weeks since he’d taken it off.”
Dave remembered reading in 2008 about a Connecticut boy who wore a Brett Favre jersey for 1,581 consecutive days and eventually asked his son if his goal was to surpass that. David had no clue that a different young boy had done something similar. Now, though, David wants to top that record.
“He wears it to church, he wore it for a week at Boy Scout camp,” Dave said of his son. “If he has to dress up, the jersey is under his clothes and everything. He only takes it off at night when he sleeps so we can wash it.”
Rodgers was a bit concerned about the cleanliness factor, too.
“Hopefully it gets washed frequently,” Rodgers said. “That’s important.”
Though David was reluctant to do so, he also has to remove his Rodgers jersey for 1/2 hour during school at the request of his physical education teacher.
“They don’t want a kid wearing a stinky shirt to class,” Dave said.
Nearly three years after receiving the present, the letters and numbers on David’s jersey are mostly gone. Somewhat visible is the ‘O’ ‘D’ ‘G’ and part of the ‘E’ in Rodgers’ name on the back. Only in certain lighting can the ’12’ be seen. The mistake made early on by David’s parents was washing and drying it in a machine. Now they know better and hand-wash it to preserve it as best as possible.
Dave wasn’t happy at his first that his son had requested a Rodgers jersey. After all, he and his wife are huge Vikings fans. David first latched onto the Packers because his grandparents were cheeseheads, but it was Rodgers who really finalized him as being pro-green and gold.
“I tell people that I think he must have been switched at birth,” Dave said. “Maybe in some Packer family there’s a lone Viking. Maybe someday they’ll find me my long-lost son and he will come home. I’m going to put my son before any team, but I won’t be cheering for the Packers anytime soon.”
David doesn’t just get grief at home for liking the Packers. He also gets it at school, as both of his main teachers are Vikings fans.
“They think it’s cool, though,” David said of his teachers’ reaction to the jersey they see him wearing every day.
To make matters more difficult for David, the nickname of the school that he attends is the Vikings. Plus, his parents nearly purchased a house on Viking Avenue.
When Dave painted his son’s room floor to ceiling with Packers colors and logos, he was wearing his Vikings jersey. David’s younger brother happily dons a Vikings jersey around the house, too.
While it wasn’t Dave’s first choice — OK, it was his last choice — to have his son cheer for the Packers, the fact that it was due to a fascination with Rodgers made it acceptable.
“I’ve seen the things that (Rodgers) does outside of football and his personality; he’s down to earth and he’s very humble,” Dave said. “If my son wants him, of all the pro football players, if he wants Aaron Rodgers to be his role model, I’d say he’s one of the best out there.”
For Rodgers, that people see him in that positive light is something he’s really proud of.
“It has to resonate with you,” Rodgers said. “I think you have to stop and think about big picture, the opportunity you have to have an impact on people. I do understand my role on this team and, bigger than that, I understand my role in the community, in the region, in the state, to connect myself in a way that people are proud to say I’m their quarterback.
“I’m flattered that someone would want to wear my jersey or shirt for that long.”