By Simon Evans
DALLAS (Reuters) - Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers will play in his first Super Bowl on Sunday but he could be forgiven for wondering if his time would ever come after spending three years as Brett Favre's understudy.
Rodgers' team mates believe the experience of working behind the scenes without a chance of glory illustrated the personal qualities that have allowed the quarterback to emerge as one of the NFL's most impressive performers this season.
Record-breaking quarterback Favre, who retired for a third time two weeks ago, spent 16 years with Green Bay where he was a fan favorite while Rodgers, drafted in 2005, was forced to spend his first three seasons as Favre's backup.
"A lot of people probably doubted him," Packers wide receiver Donald Driver told reporters on Monday shortly after the team's flight arrived in Texas. "When all the things are going up and down, the roller coaster with Brett, I just think it got to a point where Aaron was better than most would have been in that situation."
Rodgers's patience was tested when Favre first retired, effectively handing him the starting role, only to change his mind and announce he wanted his number four jersey back.
That change of heart eventually led to Favre's acrimonious departure from Green Bay and mostly unsuccessful spells with the New York Jets and Minnesota Vikings.
Green Bay's decision to stick with Rodgers rather than give Favre another year was not a popular one at the time but it has been amply justified by his classy display this season.
"He handled it well. He knew he was going to get his opportunity and I think that is all he wanted," said Driver.
"He hasn't let the organization down - he did what you have to do, make the most of it, and I think he has done everything that he can."
Rodgers, who ran for a score and made a TD-saving tackle in a 21-14 win over Chicago in the NFC Championship game, has been reluctant to discuss his years in the shadow of Favre but on Monday said he was helped through the tough times by friends.
"I had a great coaching staff and also I just surrounded myself with good people, close friends and family, said Rodgers.
"I reached out to a number of people during those times and was able to really get some good advice throughout. I just tried to stay true to my character and I had an organization that backed me and gave me a chance."
(Editing by Frank Pingue)