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Football and grief

Tonight, Aaron Rodgers will take the field in Hawaii as the starting quarterback for the NFC Pro Bowl squad as it takes on the AFC.

Across the country, Joe Philbin, the man who helped build the Super Bowl-winning offense that Rodgers has run in Green Bay since 2008, is hiring a staff and laying the foundation for his tenure as the head coach of the Miami Dolphins.

There aren’t many physical journeys you could take within the United States than the 4,853 miles between Honolulu and Miami, and there aren’t many emotional journeys like the one Philbin has had this month.

During the first week of January — as his Packers were on a Bye week — Philbin interviewed for the Miami job before returning to Wisconsin to find out who the Packers would play in the second round of the playoffs.

That Sunday, Jan. 8, his 21-year-old son, Michael, was reported missing after spending Saturday evening with friends at the University of Wisconsin – Oshkosh.

On Jan. 10, his body was pulled out of a freezing river, and before the Packers took the field the next weekend against the New York Giants, Philbin had buried his second-oldest child.

On Jan. 20, Philbin officially ascended to the top of the ranks of football coaches, getting his shot to be an NFL head coach.

In a fantastic story by CNNSI’s legendary columnist Peter King, Philbin’s decision-making process on taking this job so soon after this family tragedy was revealed.

“I told (the Dolphins) I had to go home and look my wife, my kids, in the eye and see how they were with this,” Philbin told King. “Is it the right thing at the right time? So I went home. I talked to them all. My children said this would be what Michael would have wanted.”

Read King’s full story on Philbin here.
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