SAN FRANCISCO -- An hour before he took the stage with some of his idols, Aaron Rodgers seemed to wonder if he really belonged.Just feet away in the same small room at UCSF's Mission Bay Conference Center stood Joe Montana, Steve Young, Jim Plunkett and Tom Brady. Add Rodgers, and the five quarterbacks with Bay Area ties formed the star power in a program entitled "Salute to the Titans.""It's an honor," said Rodgers, who grew up as a 49ers fan in Chico before attending Cal. "I don't know how I fit into that group. I mean, that's a prestigious group of guys who have had great careers. I'm just happy to be here with the guys I look up to and respect."Earlier, Tom Brady Sr. surveyed the scene and appeared awestruck that his son's football career had reached the mountaintop -- being included in this Who's Who of Super Bowl MVP quarterbacks.Montana, Young, Plunkett, Brady and Rodgers took part Friday in an event spearheaded by former 49ers All-Pro lineman Harris Barton that was expected to net up to 750,000 for First Tee of San Francisco, Monterey County and Silicon Valley, as well as Champion Charities, a non-profit organization that Barton and Ronnie Lott founded.MAIOCCO: Five Super Bowl MVP QBs discuss concussions
NBC's Bob Costas moderated the fast-paced hour program that entertained approximately 300 guests. And the program was every bit as enjoyable for those on stage, too.Brady and Rodgers are two of the top names in the NFL today. Brady is a seven-time Pro Bowl quarterback who has been named Super Bowl MVP twice in the New England Patriots' three championships with him at quarterback. Rodgers is the reigning league MVP after throwing for 4,643 yards with 45 touchdowns and six interceptions with the Green Bay Packers.But they had no problem riding shotgun to retired greats around them. Brady, who grew up in San Mateo, attended many 49ers games with his dad. And Rodgers wore a Montana T-shirt under his pads during college."We were pretty high from the top of the stadium," Brady said. "We needed binoculars to see what was going on, but there was nothing more thrilling than being at the games and watching Joe and Steve. Any young kid growing up at that time wanted to be like those two guys. It's quite an honor be to sitting here with those two."Brady was in the stands at Candlestick Park in January 1982 for "The Catch" -- Montana's game-winning touchdown pass to Dwight Clark that sent the 49ers on to their first Super Bowl victory. At 4 12 years old, Brady found himself distracted for most of the game."For the entire first half of the game, I was complaining to my parents that everybody had one of those (foam) fingers but me," Brady said. "I was crying the whole time. Finally, they shut me up in the second half and got me one."Later, the subject turned to the requirement of perseverance, Montana said, "When I came to San Francisco we were 2-14. And we were getting fingers, but they weren't those big ones."Montana and Young, members of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and competitive teammates, were seated next to one another on stage. Prior to the event, they spoke comfortably to one another and mingled with guests. There was no hint of the tension that existed during most of their six seasons as teammates -- each fighting desperately to win playing time from the other.Although the subject of their relationship was not broached, Montana and Young both offered glimpses of their competitive natures.
"We wanted to be perfect," Montana said. "We didn't want the ball to hit the ground. We strive for that perfection."Then, Young interjected with an example.Young said he routinely came to the 49ers' practice facility on Wednesday morning to pick up the game plan for the upcoming game and had about 15 minutes to digest as much as he could before the first meeting of the week. Young would try to memorize as much as possible before coach Bill Walsh entered and began asking questions of the quarterbacks.Young marveled at how Montana invariably already knew the answer about the game plan while Young frantically flipped through pages searching for the pertinent material."I got more and more frustrated," Young said. "How did he know that? Finally, I talked to (assistant coach) Mike Holmgren. I ask, 'How does he know that? He knows everything.'""Well, it's because he gets it faxed to him on Tuesday night," Holmgren told Young.Brady interrupted, "What's a fax machine?"They might come from different eras, but their similarities are striking. The five quarterbacks have combined for 11 Super Bowl titles and eight Super Bowl MVPs.And Friday they combined to produce another winning effort.
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