Football fans are living through a Golden Age for Golden Boy quarterbacks. Turn on your television Sunday afternoon and you’ll see them in the NFL conference championship games.
Four Golden Boys will take the field. Two will go on to the Super Bowl. Two will go home. All four, though, are tinged with gold and play with a lustrous brilliance that would shine even if games were still televised in black and white.
The original Golden Boy was, of course, Notre Dame’s Paul Hornung, the 1956 Heisman Trophy winner and first overall pick in the 1957 NFL draft. Hornung is now 79, decades removed from being a Golden Boy.
The Golden Boys playing quarterback this weekend are Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers, Andrew Luck and Russell Wilson.
Luck and Brady will play in the AFC title game while Rodgers and Russell meet in the NFC game.
When Hornung played for Notre Dame and later for the Packers, one of America’s top sports columnists was Jimmy Cannon.
He occasionally wrote second-person columns. That means he would address the column toward an athlete as he did in a 1968 piece on Joe Namath.
“You’re Joe Namath who has it all.”
Namath is now 71. Cannon died in 1973, before today’s Golden Boys were born.
As a tribute to Cannon, the rest of this column will be written in the second-person.
You are Tom Brady. You’ve made more than $150 million dollars playing football and married a supermodel. You could retire to a villa in Tuscany or a Gordon Drive mansion in Naples.
That’s not you.
You love football and competing. You hate to lose and may hate that more than you like winning.
Some might say at 37 you should be content with all you’ve accomplished. You’ve won three Super Bowls. You’ve won 18 post-season games, more than any quarterback ever. You rank fifth all-time in touchdown passes and passing yardage in NFL history.
Content? Sit back? Relax? That’s not you.
Hardly. You want to win your 19th playoff game today and then your fourth Super Bowl.
You’re Tom Brady.
Your daddy, Oliver Luck, was an All-America quarterback at West Virginia and played four years in the Houston Oilers in the 1980s. But you’re better than daddy. A lot better.
You’re only 25 and in merely your third NFL season but it’s obvious that the Indianapolis Colts were wise to take you with the first overall pick of the 2012 draft.
In the 2014 season you led the league with 40 touchdown passes.
It may be too early to say you’re an elite quarterback. Maybe. A win today and in the Super Bowl may elevate you to inclusion in that class.
You’re Andrew Luck, who may someday put his name high up in the NFL passing statistics with that Golden Boy from the Patriots.
You’re Andrew Luck and you’re better than your daddy, who threw 13 touchdown passes in his NFL career.
You’re the Discount Double-Check guy and you also play a little football.
You came to Green Bay to back up a legend and now you’re becoming one. I recall those three years when you played behind Brett Favre and football experts raved about the young guy who was the Packers quarterback of the future.
They were talking about you. I was skeptical. How good could this Rodgers guy be? The experts were right.
You’re very good. You’re so good it now seems as if Favre has faded into a distant memory, sort of like Bart Starr, the Packers’ great quarterback of the 1960s.
You can run and throw and throw on the run. Your accuracy is astounding.
You threw 38 touchdown passes this year and were intercepted only five times. When the Packers started the season 1-2 Packers fans were on the verge of frothing worry. You told them to “relax.”
You were right. And here you are in the NFC title game.
You’re been romantically linked to an actress name Olivia Munn.
But it’s on the field where you’ve become a Golden Boy.
Oh, and in those State Farm Discount Double-Check commercials.
You’re Russell Wilson and you hit .229 in two seasons of minor-league baseball. That’s .229 in the low minors, in Class A, where you struck out 118 times in 315 at-bats.
You’re only 5-11, a size better suited for playing second base than quarterback.
Yet, you won the Super Bowl last year. Your team is at home in the NFC title game and you may soon find yourself in another Super Bowl.
Maybe you could have found your stroke and become a big-league baseball player. Maybe. There is no maybe about your football career.
You led the Seahawks to a Super Bowl victory last year, a 43-8 trouncing of the Denver Broncos.
You put on another golden performance in last week’s 31-17 playoff win over the Carolina Panthers. You were 8-for-8 for 199 yards and three touchdowns on third down. On third down!
You were golden, indeed.
Now, you’ve played three seasons in the NFL. You chose the right sport.