By Terrance Turner
Feb. 23, 2021
Aaron Rodgers shocked the world on Feb. 6.
During his acceptance speech for the MVP award at the NFL Honors, Rodgers reflected on 2020 and casually dropped a bombshell: “I got engaged, and I played some of the best football of my career.” He later thanked his fiancée in his acknowledgements, though he did not name her.
Now, we know who the lucky lady is: Big Little Lies actress Shailene Woodley. She confirmed the news last night, during an appearance on The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon. When Fallon asked her directly, Woodley answered affirmatively: “Yes. We are engaged.”
The world was shocked by the announcement of their betrothal — after a whirlwind six-month romance. But Woodley doesn’t get why everyone is so surprised. “But for us it’s not new news. So it’s kind of funny. Everybody right now is freaking out over it and we’re like, ‘Yeah, we’ve been engaged for awhile,’” said Woodley. (Maybe people are “freaking out” because of the breakneck escalation of their relationship? Rodgers broke up with racecar driver Danica Patrick in July but got engaged to Woodley by February.)
But if Woodley’s comments are any indication, this betrothal may have been official for some time: “Yeah, we got engaged awhile ago and it’s been … he’s, first off, a wonderful, incredible human being. But I never thought I’d be engaged to somebody who threw balls for a living. But I never thought as a little girl, ‘Yeah, when I grow up I’m going to marry someone who throws balls, yeah!’ But he’s really just so good at it,” she said. “He can throw fast balls, he can throw slow balls, high balls, low balls.” (Indeed: Rodgers had a 70.7% completion percentage in 2020, throwing 48 touchdowns and just five interceptions. So he throws balls very well indeed.)
Fallon then asked her if she’s spent much time in Green Bay and if she is a football fan. “I didn’t really grow up with sports, especially American sports. It was never really on my radar,” she explained. “When we met, also, I knew he was a football guy, but I didn’t know like what kind of a football guy he was. And I’m still constantly learning.”
Despite Rodgers’ legendary career — he took Green Bay to the NFC Championship this year and led Green Bay to a Super Bowl in 2010 — Woodley doesn’t know much about football. “I still have never been to a football game,” Woodley said. That includes this past season: because of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Packers stadium was closed. And before she met Rodgers, she hadn’t even watched a game on TV. “Before I met him, I’d never seen one football game,” she said.
“When we met, I knew he was a football guy, but I didn’t know what kind of a football guy he was,” said Woodley. “I am still constantly learning. I don’t get it. He’s good. He’s great. But, like, I don’t understand. Because I don’t know him as the football guy! I know him as like, the nerd who wants to host Jeopardy! That’s the dude I know. He just happens to also be very good at sports.”
The engagement took many by surprise, but E! Online quoted a source who echoed Woodley’s nonchalance. “It’s a quick engagement, but for those that know them, it didn’t come as a surprise.” The source added: “They had a very intense connection from the beginning. They both knew early on that it was something special and different from what they had experienced in other relationships.” The source also revealed: “They have spent the entire fall together and lived together throughout.”
The engagement is remarkable not just for its rapid pace but for the unusually private way that it unfolded. The two have yet to even be photographed together! Elle magazine described their relationship as “private and low-key” in an article earlier this month. Also remarkable: the sudden shift in Rodgers’ closely guarded personal life. Rodgers, who turned 37 last year, has never married and has no children. For viewers like me, who thought of him as a career-centered, eternal bachelor, the news comes as a shock.
Until now, Rodgers was something of a statistical anomaly. According to the 2015 American Community Survey, 72% of men will marry by age 37. And 76% of men are married by 40. According to a 2009 data brief by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “The probability that men will marry by age 40 is 81%; for women, it is 86%.”
UPDATE (April 26): Rodgers recently finished a two-week stint as host of the show “Jeopardy!”, which he’s been a fan of since childhood. During the trip, Rodgers and Woodley visited Disney World in Florida, where they were photographed at the Grand Floridian Resort. While there, they took part in a brief interview. Asked “What is one thing that makes you smile?” the two instantly pointed at each other. Rodgers added: “You always make me smile.”
Rodgers’ first week at “Jeopardy!” led to a 14% spike in the Nielsen ratings. The figures were quoted by tvnewscheck.com: “In fact, Jeopardy, with Rodgers at the podium, rocketed 14% from the week before to a 5.6 live-plus-same-day national Nielsen rating, its best performance in a month.” Rodgers has expressed interest in the job. And he told host Pat McAfee that he thinks he can balance “Jeopardy!” and football.
“I don’t think I’d need to give up football to do it,” he said. “They film 46 days a year. I worked 187 this year in Green Bay. That gives me 178 days to do Jeopardy! So I feel like I could fit 46 into that 178 and make it work. It would be a dream job for sure, and I’m not shy at all about saying I want the job. That’s how I went into it. I want an opportunity to be in the mix.”