The man replacing Aaron Rodgers chooses his words deliberately. He doesn't show emotion. He's serious, direct. You wonder if he bleeds.

Scott Tolzien is, indeed, all business.

Yet this question gives him pause. First, his arms are crossed. Then, he scratches his chin.

"What makes me tick?" Tolzien repeats, pausing again. "I would say just being your own person, being comfortable with that.

"You just want to make the most of your opportunities."

No opportunity gets bigger than what awaits the Green Bay Packers' starting quarterback in East Rutherford, N.J., on Sunday. Without Rodgers, who is nursing a broken collarbone, the Packers are in certified survival mode. Win and they're in the hunt. Lose and they might need to win out. And their quarterback, their general on the front line, is a 6-foot-2, 213-pound leaguewide mystery.

Undrafted. Overlooked. Cut by two teams. A player who has spent the 2013 season on the practice squad is, in essence, being asked to save the Packers' season. Everyone outside Wisconsin — heck, Brown County, Ashwaubenon, the stadium — is scratching his head.

Is the former Badger ready?

To understand this, you must first view the scenario through Tolzien's eyes. His brother has completed two tours in Afghanistan. He keeps perspective. From there, he's driven by a 24/7 work ethic. It's cliché. He gets that. But Tolzien repeats constantly that his preparation feeds confidence, will eliminate pressure.

Back in his hometown, Rolling Meadows, Ill., Dad is not worried.

"I don't think he goes into the game nervous or feeling pressure," said Mike Tolzien, Scott's father. "This is obviously a big stage, on the road, in a game that they have to win. It seems like a lot of pressure. But I would expect my son to prepare and prepare and prepare more."

The perspective
Two days before taking off to New Jersey, he's focused. Not frantic. The sun will rise Monday morning. More than anyone inside this locker room, Scott Tolzien gets the big picture.

In New York, he'll deal with blitzing linebackers. Overseas, his brother, Mike, an Air Force pilot, deals with war. He has seen things, lived things far, far worse than anything Tolzien will face Sunday. The enemy has shot at his plane.

So, yes, Scott Tolzien absolutely views the game through this lens.

"I think it helps you mentally when you can revert to something like that," Tolzien said. "It lessens the magnitude of an NFL football game. It's a big deal. But it's not as big a deal as something my brother could be going through."

His brother is stationed in England and will be there for a couple of years. Reached by phone this week, Mike Tolzien Jr. downplays his valor. The foot soldiers run into more trouble, he said. Yes, his plane has been shot at. But he downplays that, too.

He flies low to the ground. It happens.

"Nothing too crazy," he says. "We're kind of an easy target at times."

The brothers keep in touch regularly. Scott Tolzien had to win at everything, he explained. Pickup basketball. Card games. Much like Rodgers, Scott Tolzien "always" found a way to win. Mike Tolzien Jr. remembers his younger brother cheating at cards.

He said his brother is a "super laid-back dude." But that persona masks hours of preparation.

"You can throw him in any situation," the older brother said, "and he's always going to be ready for it. Nothing catches him off-guard."

Neither brother wants to replay the gory, often tragic imagery from Afghanistan. The way people live overseas, Mike Tolzien Jr. said, "it's like turning back the clock a couple hundred years." And as part of the Air Force's medical evacuation team, transporting the bodies of deceased 18-, 19-, 20-year-old kids is never easy for Scott Tolzien's brother.

"They're just kids," he said. "I look back at what I was doing at that age. It wasn't anything like they're doing. ... For me, it always hits home."

He has lost classmates, friends. At some point, he'll return to Afghanistan.

From Green Bay, Scott Tolzien knows no turmoil he'll see Sunday compares to what his older brother encounters. He's not in a plane, 150-200 feet above the ground, taking shots from terrorist forces.

"Your antennas go up a little bit when you hear something like that. It's family. It hits hard when you hear something like that. You realize you can't take anything for granted," Scott Tolzien said.

Not to mention his trips to the Madison’s Children’s Hospital. Through college, Tolzien developed close relationships with kids in very different, equally scary life-or-death situations. After each college game, he talked X’s and O’s with 6-year-old cancer patient, Jaxson Hinkens. Each visit recharged perspective.

Working with children who “weren’t expected to live,” as his Dad put, led to maturity, led to an adult who can handle adversity on a football field.