By Paul Toscano and Brian Beers
In a year where the National Football League was embroiled in its longest labor dispute ever, the popularity of this multibillion-dollar sports juggernaut has still managed to grow.
|Slideshow: Best-selling NFL jerseys|
An important component of football merchandising is jersey sales -- which might be seen as a proxy for the most popular players in the sport. Each year, NFLShop.com releases the best-selling jerseys in the NFL and its list is presented here. This list represents jersey sales from April 1 to Sept. 30, 2011.
So, which NFL jerseys are this year's best sellers?
The best-selling NFL jersey of 2011 is that of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, reigning Super Bowl Champion and MVP. Rodgers threw for nearly 3,922 yards in 2010, with a passer rating of 101.2. He continued his success into the 2011 season, leading his team to a 4-0 start, throwing for 12 touchdowns and rushing for two.
Green Bay fans have been known to worship their quarterbacks, so coming off a Super Bowl win it should be no surprise that Rodgers jersey finds itself at the top spot.
5. Clay Matthews, Packers
Breaking into the top 25 on the list and climbing all the way to fifth place is Green Bay Packers linebacker Clay Matthews. Matthews has received Pro Bowl honors in both of his years in the league and helped the team to its first Super Bowl title since 1996 -- undoubtedly boosting his popularity among fans. In 2010, Matthews also came a close second to Steelers safety Troy Polamalu in the voting for Defensive Player of the Year.
4. Troy Polamalu, Steelers
Popular for both his on-the-field play and his characteristic hairstyle, Steelers safety Troy Polamalu is another perennial fan favorite. His rank has moved up from 2010, when Polamalu jersey sales were sixth on NFLShop.com's list. Troy is the reigning Defensive Player of the Year, and also holds the distinction of having the best-selling defensive player jersey on this list. Interestingly, Polamalu jerseys outsold Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger's jersey over this time.
3. Michael Vick, Eagles
After being sentenced to prison and suspended indefinitely for violating the NFL's player conduct policy in the wake of a dog-fighting scandal, public perception of Mike Vick was at a low, with animal lovers lashing out against him. Although he returned to play for the Eagles in a limited capacity in 2009, it took until the 2011 season for his jersey to gain traction as a top seller. Vick recorded his first 3,000-yard passing season in 2010 and threw for 21 touchdowns, also a career best. Although some still protest Vick, this year the negative sentiment wasn't as strongly reflected in jersey sales, with Vick in third place as the field general of the hyped "Dream Team."
2. Tom Brady, Patriots
Patriots quarterback Tom Brady has been one of the league's premier passers for the better part of a decade and has developed a following, both in New England and around the country. A two-time Super Bowl MVP and six-time Pro Bowl selection, Brady also was named the best player in the NFL prior to the 2011 season. He holds a long list of NFL records and accomplishments, including the most passing touchdowns in the regular season (50), most consecutive postseason wins (10), and he is the only quarterback to start and win three Super Bowls before his 28th birthday.
1. Aaron Rodgers, Packers
The best-selling NFL jersey of 2011 is that of Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, reigning Super Bowl Champion and MVP. Rodgers threw for nearly 3,922 yards in 2010, with a passer rating of 101.2. He continued his success into the 2011 season, leading his team to a 4-0 start, throwing for 12 touchdowns and rushing for two. Green Bay fans have been known to worship their quarterbacks, so coming off a Super Bowl win it should be no surprise that Rodgers jersey finds itself at the top spot.
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