GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Lucas Patrick tried to play it cool when his fiancée, Annie, got excited about what Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers said about him after Sunday’s win over the Dallas Cowboys.
"She was like, ‘Oh my gosh, that’s so nice,’" Patrick said.
Just minutes earlier, Rodgers had stood in the interview room at AT&T Stadium and shared a story from this summer about Patrick, who was once again fighting for a spot on the 53-man roster. Patrick, of course, continued his unlikely career -- he came to the Packers as an undrafted, unsigned rookie on a tryout basis in 2016 -- and then Sunday was forced into action when center Corey Linsley's streak of 2,768 consecutive snaps came to an end 19 plays into the game.
Other than two wayward shotgun snaps that, despite what they looked like, were not supposed to be direct snaps to running back Aaron Jones, Patrick provided the same kind of stability on the line that Rodgers counts on from Linsley.
"I was just telling him how proud I am of him," Rodgers said after the game. "We had a great conversation over the lunch table kind of mid [training] camp. I felt like he was struggling a little bit mentally. Since the end of training camp, he’s really gained a lot of confidence in the scheme, where he can step in in a tough environment with a really good front and be effective."
To Patrick, that meant more than anyone, even Annie, could have imagined.
"Every guy in this locker room can act like [it’s no big deal]; it’s still cool to have Aaron Rodgers say something about you," Patrick said Tuesday. "That’s still cool to have him say anything positive, let alone what he did. I’ll forever be thankful for that."
And it seems to go against the outside perception of Rodgers, who often is painted as an extreme talent with unforgiving stubbornness. A select few former teammates, Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley chief among them, have become the go-to guys for Rodgers-bashing on the national level.
Patrick is here to tell a different story.
Stories, plural, actually.
"When I’m done I’ll maybe write an op-ed or whatever it’s called about that," Patrick said. "Because the national narrative is extremely wrong from my experience. For him to even say anything that he does to me personally is one thing. To go out in front of the national media in a postgame press conference and say that, I mean, not only does the one-on-one talk build the confidence, but for him to say that, projecting in front of thousands of fans, 31 other teams, all these other people who are tuned into everything he says, that builds me up more than anyone."
Patrick was hesitant to share one story but relented.
It was near the end of training camp in 2017. Patrick spent all of the 2016 season on the practice squad and had just finished one of the last practices of preseason the next year. His mother, Liz, was in Green Bay to see him. Patrick had taken Liz inside Lambeau Field, so they parked her car in the players’ lot.
As they rolled out in Liz’s early 2000s Ford Escape -- not the kind of car typically parked in that lot -- Rodgers approached. To hear Patrick tell it, Rodgers walked up to the car, tapped on the window and asked Liz to roll it down so he could introduce himself.
"Ever since he’s done that, he’ll forever be good in my book," Patrick said. "For him to go out of his way to talk to my mom, just to say, ‘Hey.’ I mean, he introduced himself. Of course [she knows] who you are. Like those stories, I don’t think get highlighted enough. That’s the true guy in this locker room."
"If you feel like 12 has your back, it's like the whole state of Wisconsin has your back. Everyone knows what he can do on the field. But I don't think many people truly know what he does off the field to help guys like me." Lucas Patrick on Aaron Rodgers
Then there was the conversation over lunch this past summer.
Patrick said he was coming off a bad practice, and Rodgers must have sensed he was feeling down.
"If you feel like 12 has your back, it’s like the whole state of Wisconsin has your back," Patrick said. "Everyone knows what he can do on the field. But I don’t think many people truly know what he does off the field to help guys like me.
"I mean, I think if you went around to a bunch of guys in the locker room who are just fighting to stick in this league, he’s probably talked to 99 percent of them and has expressed words of encouragement … It’s not always peaches and cream. He’ll shoot you straight. But I appreciate that. Because at this level, we need people who are willing to say, ‘This is where you’re deficient, or this is where you need to get better.’ And he’s not afraid to do that. And it makes this team so much better."
Which brought Patrick to Sunday in Dallas.
He can joke now about the unintentional direct snaps to Jones, saying "It'll be interesting to see how the other teams scout those."
But in the moment, it was no laughing matter.
Patrick said Rodgers told him: "Get the snap to me."
"Like it’s that simple," Patrick said. "That’s his job, to bring it out, but not necessarily degrading or anything. And (I) then did it again, and he was more firm. He also was like, ‘Look man, just give me the ball, go and do your assignment, you’ll be fine.’"
Patrick understood, and he also felt an obligation to live up to what Rodgers expected. Not just because he’s the two-time MVP quarterback and future Hall of Famer, but because of the investment Rodgers made in him.
"Yeah, he could seriously walk up to me and say anything to me on the field, whether it’s negative or positive, and I’ll respond with a ‘Yes sir, let’s do it. OK, I’ll be better,’" Patrick said. "He brings the best out of everyone."