Aaron Rodgers, the All-Pro Green Bay Packers quarterback and teammate, understudy and eventual successor to soon to be Hall of Fame quarterback Brett Favre, was once an undersized, under-recruited junior college player with garnering little attention. His story is one of perseverance, commitment and self-confidence. Despite insurmountable odds and a lack of notoriety, Rodgers found a unique path to NFL stardom.
All professional sports, especially football, is as much of a thinking game as it is a playing game and Rodgers would learn to master this aspect. As a kid, Rodgers’ favorite team was the 49ers and even at the age of 15 he could identify the opposing team’s blitzes, offensive audibles and other common calls – all from memory. The intellectual aspect of Rodgers’ approach to football would eventually make him a superior player.
Rodgers spent his high school years at Pleasant Valley High School in Chico, CA. As the starting quarterback for two years he accumulated 4,421 passing yards and even set single-game records of six touchdowns and 440 all-purpose yards. Yet, his performance at Pleasant Valley wouldn’t lead to much college attention from a Division I, II, or III school.
In 2011, Rodgers said in an interview with ESPN’s E:60, that his lack of college interest likely came from his underwhelming size, standing 5’10” and 165 lbs going into his college freshman year. The only offer he received was a walk-on scholarship from Illinois, which he turned down. Instead, he went to play football at Butte College, a junior college about 15 miles away from his hometown. Amazingly enough, Rodgers threw a total of 26 touchdowns in his freshman season, carrying Butte to a 10–1 record and a No. 2 national ranking. Rodgers’ determination and early success despite all odds would finally get him the high level attention he wanted. He was discovered by the California Golden Bears by the head coach who was following Butte for their tight end, Garrett Cross.
Rodgers was eligible to transfer after one year of junior college because of his reputable academic standing. His career numbers didn’t fault with the move. After his record setting career at Cal, he was drafted no. 24 in the second round of the 2005 NFL draft. Rodgers’ journey is a story of many obstacles, but as a hardworking student of the game his road eventually led to an astoundingly successful 2-time MVP career.
Most compelling about the Aaron Rodgers success story is that at any point in his journey he could have found a reason to put down the ball, quit and pursue other ventures. However, his desire outweighed early challenges and circumstances. Although size and doubters were against him, his perseverance as a student of the game and self-confidence as a young man are what lead him to what will sure to be a spot in Canton, OH again next to his former teammate Brett Favre. Aaron Rodgers’ journey should bring inspiration to every undersized and under recruited student-athlete facing adversity.
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