Fresh and wide-eyed, Jaguars rookie quarterback Jake Luton had himself a dazzling NFL debut.
Now, he’s preparing to make his second career start against an all-time great who he grew up rooting for: Aaron Rodgers.
“It’s pretty surreal. He’s a guy I have a lot of respect for, was a big fan of growing up and a huge fan of his game,” the 24-year-old Luton said Wednesday, via team transcript. “A lot of things that he does, no one else really can do. He’s a wizard with the football in a lot of ways. Like I said, [I have] a lot of respect for him. It’ll be really exciting to get out there and get to play ball against him.”
A sixth-round pick out of Oregon State, Luton made a strong showing in his first NFL action, throwing for 304 yards and a touchdown and rushing for another score in a narrow loss to the Texans in Week 9.
Now, he’ll face an NFC heavyweight in Green Bay and a surefire Hall of Famer in the 36-year-old Rodgers, who’s coming off an astounding four-touchdown effort on Thursday against the 49ers.
With a 12-year age gap, Luton didn’t spend yesteryear as a Packer backer, necessarily, but rooted for a pair of legendary quarterbacks.
“I wouldn’t say I was a Packers fan, but I grew up a big fan of [Brett] Favre and then Rodgers stepped in and I was a big fan of Rodgers, so [I] definitely watched the quarterbacks that have played there over my childhood,” Luton said.
Luton will once again be watching Rodgers on Sunday, though his view will be from the field level.
Rodgers also had a TD through the air and one on the ground in his first NFL start — in 2008 — and is also a Pac-12 product, having played at Cal. But the similarities aren’t all that prevalent thereafter.
Luton’s leading a one-win squad with a an uncertain future, while Rodgers is leading a Packers squad with Super Bowl hopes and has already carved out a lasting legacy.
For now, Luton’s just got one game to look back on and build off of as he focusses on what lies ahead for him and not the “wizard” across the sideline.
“I’m focused on myself. I’m focused on our team. [I] stepped back out on the practice field [Wednesday] and felt a lot more confident, felt like practice went really well. I feel like [I’m] just trying to build on what I did on Sunday and I think today was a good step in that direction,” Luton said. “I mean I think there’s a lot of things I can build on. Watching the tape, I think just continuing to work through my reads fast and getting one from one guy to the next I think is something I can continue to build on. But there’s lots of things, lots of small footwork things, footwork in the run game, and reads that you can just keep cleaning up week to week and [I’m] hoping to build on that this week.”
Nonetheless, Luton knows full well just how great the quarterback is who he’ll be sharing the field with on Sunday. After all, he grew up marveling at his exploits.
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