What ever became of this guy?
The headline story in college football on September 27, 2003 was the Cal Bears 34-31 triple overtime home win over third ranked USC.
Cal coach Jeff Tedford went with a somewhat untested sophomore quarterback just a year removed from cutting his teeth in the Northern California junior college ranks after not being recruited at the Division I level out of high school.
It was his second start, as he won at Illinois a week earlier. In Fox Sports Net’s opening (view the entire game here!), the talk was about receiver Geoff McArthur more than any other Cal player, although the quarterback was shown warming up along with his previous week’s stat-line.
He had strong first half despite two interceptions. He ran for an early touchdown and threw for two more, including one to his junior college teammate Garrett Cross. Cal went into the half up 21-7.
Without fanfare, the quarterback sat the rest of the game due to injury. But those 30 minutes served as his prequel. He was solid the rest of the 2003 season and threw for 394 yards in his team’s bowl win.
The next year Cal played USC the Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum and the he completed 23 consecutive passes against the top-ranked Trojans, but was not mentioned until 1:05 in the ESPN highlight package. The game also featured Marshawn Lynch balling against future NFL coach Pete Carroll.
Later on the ESPN set Lee Corso correctly called his shot saying the Cal quarterback was a better talent than USC’s Matt Leinart. By the end of the 2004 he was in the conversation as the potential No. 1 overall pick in the NFL Draft.
Concerns about measureables caused him to famously slip to overall pick no 24. Then he sat on the bench for three years.
In 2008, Brett Favre was finally nudged out the door – the rest would soon become history for Aaron Rodgers.
In late September of 2003, Rodgers was an afterthought. But I see the first half against USC as Rodgers’ coming out party. It was his first blip on the radar. It was in a small way like the day at Lambeau Field in 1992 when Favre took over for Don Majkowski.
Was there any die-hard Cal fan watching that day thinking that in 10 years Rodgers would be one of the elite quarterbacks in the NFL?
It was those humble beginnings, and Rodgers not being a highly touted (or touted period) that makes the story. He is not alone. Tom Brady was a late-round draft choice, Kurt Warner played in the arena league while stocking shelves at a local Hy-Vee, Johnny Unitas was operating a pile driver before getting a shot in pro football.
Stories like this are what make sports great. And following the development of certain athletes is the ultimate reality show. Some Parade high school All-Americans live up to the hype, but some don’t. Then there is the other side of the coin. Which decent, but not outstanding high school quarterback is sitting somewhere in America right now who will eventually be holding a Super Bowl trophy?