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Feet just as key as hands for Rodgers, Monroe

Posted: 10:11 AM, Dec 18, 2015
Updated: 2015-12-18 16:11:39Z
Feet just as key as hands for Rodgers, Monroe
Feet just as key as hands for Rodgers, Monroe
Feet just as key as hands for Rodgers, Monroe
Feet just as key as hands for Rodgers, Monroe
Feet just as key as hands for Rodgers, Monroe

Despite its name, most often a football is handled with human hands. A basketball is always handled with your hands.

However, if you talk to elite athletes like the Green Bay Packers' Aaron Rodgers and the Milwaukee Bucks' Greg Monroe, development and continual perfection of their on-field and on-court footwork is just as key to their success.

"Every day," utters Monroe. "Guys don't just come out here and wing it. Everybody works on the stuff they do in games."

Not surprisingly, the guy who analyzes Rodgers every Sunday for 620WTMJ's Packers Radio Network uses many of Monroe's same words.

"Every day," said Larry McCarren, who reached the elite with the Packers himself as a center from the mid-70's to the mid-80's.

"Nobody is born with good footwork. Some learn it quicker than others, but it's a learned skill, and you have to practice it because it's not a natural skill."

Throwing a ball seems like a natural skill from early on. Our kids throw balls when they're one and two years old, and they're able to shoot small balls into toddler-style baskets a short time later.

Most of them can probably grab a football and throw something resembling a halfway-decent spiral by the time they hit kindergarten, pretending to be Aaron Rodgers.

Learning good footwork like Rodgers and Monroe, though, is an acquired skill. Most of us who grew up playing grade school basketball understood that, as Monroe did with his feet that have reached size 15.

"Pretty early. I've been taught most of my life. It was just about continuing to have that consistency, just learning over time, continuously working on it and mastering it," he said.

McCarren also gets that at the elite level, the part of mastering such footwork is even more important.

"I think you realize that little things, that they matter and become big things the higher up the food chain you go. As the competition gets better, where in high school you may be just physically superior to the guys you're playing against, because God was good to you at birth. As you go on, you realize that to beat guys who are just as big, just as strong, just as quick or better in all those particular attributes, to beat those guys, you'd better be very technique-conscious."

Those techniques get practiced every single time the Bucks hit the practice floor, or every time the Packers take to the field.

"Continually working on my moves, just making sure I'm comfortable as possible using my pivots, making sure I'm strong and balanced when I make my moves. It's something I work on every day," said Monroe.

"With their steps, underneath the chutes, working against each other, it's the same stuff, every day, all season long," adds McCarren.

The daily mastery of his footwork in and out of the pocket is part of what makes him Aaron Rodgers a two-time NFL MVP.

"The quarterback gurus will tell you it all starts with his feet. It all starts with any quarterback's feet. Guys with good mechanics, good footwork, they're apt to be better quarterbacks, and guys who don't have it, are apt to be very erratic. I don't profess to be a quarterback guru, but I'm told by those who are that his lower body mechanics are off-the-charts good," explains McCarren.

McCarren and millions of Packers fans have seen Rodgers scramble out of the pocket, keeping his eyes downfield, then re-setting his feet to square up in proper position and deliver a rifle throw for a big gain or a touchdown.

Every day at minicamp, OTA's, training camp and during the season, Rodgers practices that skill, running between and around rectangular pads on the practice field, practicing setting his feet before using his rifle arm.

"It's a grind," explains McCarren.

"Doing things a certain way takes some of the fun out of it, unless you're one of the chosen few, it's probably not the natural way. You have to drill it until it becomes the natural way. If you're thinking about your footwork during the game, that's another dimension into about 8,000 other things a quarterback is thinking about. It's got to be natural, and to make it natural, it's got to be practiced, it's got to be rehearsed, it's got to be drilled."

It's that way in both football and basketball for the elite athletes. However, the differences in the sports occasionally bring differences in what your feet have the time to do.

Sometimes, there are moments in quarterbacking when such drilling has to be forgotten, because a 300-pound lineman wants to drill you into the turf, and you have to release the ball before you can properly set your feet.

As his predecessor Brett Favre did so many times, Rodgers can even make incredible plays without textbook mechanics.

"These are the plays that I shake my head and say 'That's not human.' He can't afford good footwork. He's running for his life, and he'll wind up throwing the ball with velocity off his wrong foot. Somehow, some way, it's accurate and it gets there," explains McCarren.
 
"When he has good footwork, clearly, everything was just so, just the way it's supposed to be. When it all breaks down, he's still athlete enough to make it happen. I've slowed it up. I've asked him about it. 'How do you do this? This is not human.' Then he just laughs. That's why he's Aaron Rodgers."
 
Yet more often than not, staying true to the textbook, the footwork he, Monroe and so many elite athletes have rehearsed thousands of times, the learned, unnatural behavior for weekend warriors on the playground, is what separates the best from the rest.
 
The feet are a big reason why Greg Monroe is Greg Monroe, and why Aaron Rodgers is Aaron Rodgers.