By Steve Keating
DALLAS (Reuters) - Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers exploded out of Brett Favre's shadow by tossing three touchdowns and claiming Super Bowl most valuable player honors in a 31-25 win over the Pittsburgh Steelers on Sunday.
Rodgers completed 24 of 39 passes for 304 yards and joined Hall of Fame quarterback Bart Starr (1967, 1968) and wide receiver Desmond Howard (1997) as the only Packers to claim MVP honors in Super Bowl.
"It's a dream come true," said Rodgers, who was hoisted onto the shoulders of his team mates after the win. "It's what I dreamt about as a little kid watching Joe Montana and Steve Young and we just won the Super Bowl."
Rodgers, selected by the Packers in the first round of 2005 NFL draft, spent three seasons as Favre's patient understudy but has cemented his status as one of the elite quarterbacks since stepping into the starting role in 2008.
If there were any lingering doubts about Green Bay's decision to let Favre, a future Hall of Famer, walk away three seasons ago and put their faith in an untested backup, Rodgers erased it with a masterful post-season performance.
Rodgers led Green Bay to a pair of must-have wins at the end of the regular season to claim the final playoff spot in the NFC Conference and got three road wins in the postseason before capturing the Super Bowl in Dallas.
In doing so, the 27-year-old Rodgers gave the Packers their first NFL title in 14 years and walked away with the MVP award, one of the few honors Favre does not have in his trophy case.
"I never felt like there's been a monkey on my back," said Rodgers. "The organization stood behind me, believed in me.
"I told Ted (Thompson, Packers general manager) in 2005 he wouldn't be sorry with this pick. I told him in 2008 I was going to repay their trust and get us this opportunity."
While Rodgers never seem flustered by constant comparisons to Favre, there seemed to be no escaping the scrutiny until he lead the Packers a Super Bowl victory.
He forged his own identity in the 2010 campaign, coming back from a concussion to close the season with six-straight wins and establish himself has a team leader.
"It's a special honor to be one of the leaders of this football team," said Rodgers. "This is a team effort and a great group of men, special guys and I'm just pleased to be one of the leaders.
"Individually it is the top of the mountain in my sport."
Playing on football's biggest stage in front of more than 100,000 spectators and a worldwide television audience, Rodgers embraced the spotlight.
He joins San Francisco 49ers quarterbacks Joe Montana and Steve Young as the only player to pass for three touchdowns and over 300 yards in the NFL championship game.
Rodgers's playoff totals of 1,094 yards and nine touchdown passes rank only second to Kurt Warner as the only quarterbacks with more than 1,000 yards and nine touchdown passes in one postseason.
(Editing by Frank Pingue)