GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Aaron Rodgers received a unique birthday present Wednesday. On the day he turned 37, the Green Bay Packers quarterback finally got to throw to a first-round receiver for the first time since he became an NFL starter.
The Packers signed Tavon Austin on Tuesday, and the eighth pick in the 2013 NFL draft practiced here for the first time a day later.
Rodgers has attempted 7,103 passes in his career, including playoffs. Only two of them went to a receiver picked in the first round, and both were before he became the starter in 2008.
When asked if he could recall who that receiver was, Rodgers didn't hesitate.
"K-Rob," Rodgers answered, referring to Koren Robinson.
He completed two passes for 20 yards to Robinson, the ninth overall pick by the Seattle Seahawks in 2001. One came in the 2006 season -- an 11-yarder in Week 4 against the Philadelphia Eagles. The other was in 2007 -- a 9-yarder in Week 13 against the Dallas Cowboys.
It might be too late into the 30-year-old Austin's career or he might have joined the Packers too late into the season to make a major impact, but Rodgers is at least interested to see what kind of impact he could have on an already prolific offense.
"I was a fan of Tavon's in college," Rodgers said of the former speedster who has had success as a receiver, gadget running back and punt returner. "I remember watching him, just how electric he was."
The Packers haven't drafted a receiver of their own in the first round since Javon Walker in 2002, and Walker was gone before Rodgers ever got to throw to him. Like Austin, Robinson was a reclamation project when the Packers signed him later in his career.
Among that group, Brady has the most touchdowns to first-round receivers with 76.
Rodgers' only career touchdown passes to any player drafted in the first round regardless of position are the four he has thrown to tight end Marcedes Lewis over the past two seasons. However, his 192 touchdown passes to second-round picks is the most all time.
It's a two-way street for Austin, who was released by the San Francisco 49ers after an injury settlement (knee) earlier this year. He raved about finally getting the chance to play with a quarterback like Rodgers.
"I've had nine quarterbacks in eight years and about four or five different offensive systems," Austin said. "I've never really been in a steady place. I'm just glad I'm finally here with Aaron and hopefully he grows trust in me like I'm seeing in him just from being here today [and] how he takes over in meetings and things like that. It's a different thing that I've never seen before."
It helps that Austin has experience in coach Matt LaFleur's system, which is a byproduct of what Sean McVay implemented during Austin's last season (2017) with the Rams, where LaFleur coordinated the offense. By that point, Austin's best seasons were already behind him. In 2015, Austin had 104 touches on offense (52 catches and 52 carries) for a combined 907 yards and nine touchdowns but hasn't matched that production since, despite claiming Wednesday that he still has 4.3 speed.
"I think that had this offense really been going during that time, I think he really would have found a sticking spot for a long time being a guy who can do so many things, you know, giving him fly sweeps and getting him in action stuff, getting him on the edge," Rodgers said. "So it's nice having him. He's happy to be here, happy to be on a winning team, I'm sure, and excited about finding a niche."
That's a niche Tyler Ervin has filled over the last year, but Ervin has missed the past two games because of a rib injury and previously missed time because of a wrist injury.
Whatever role, if any, the Packers (8-3) can find for Austin, this much is clear: Rodgers has excelled without a first-round pick at receiver even in a year in which they went into the draft seemingly in need at that position and instead drafted Rodgers' possible eventual replacement, Jordan Love, in the first round.
When asked to reflect on where he is on his 37th birthday, Rodgers gave no indication that he has any intention of moving on anytime soon.
"I just feel really fortunate to have grown up here and just have a lot of great memories that I've made here that I'll take with me one day," Rodgers said. "Hopefully that day isn't too soon, but if you had told that 21-year-old he'd still be sitting here at 37, I'd be pretty happy about that, as happy as I am today to still be here."