Jordan Rodgers wants to get one thing straight.
The most accomplished quarterback in the family might be his older brother, Aaron, who also happens to be one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and the reigning Super Bowl MVP.
But when it comes to overall athleticism, Jordan says it’s no contest.
“I will be steadfast in that I’m the best athlete in the family,” trumpeted Jordan, who takes particular delight in making that proclamation. “Obviously, I’m trying to follow in his footsteps as a quarterback. But when we get on the basketball court and play a little one-on-one, it’s a different story.
“I can say with confidence that I’m athletically dominant over him.”
Something else Jordan can say with confidence is that he’s seeing things on the football field faster and more instinctively than he ever has since stepping foot on Vanderbilt’s campus last year.
And not coincidentally, the Commodores are putting up the kind of offensive numbers they haven’t put up in a long time heading into Saturday’s key matchup with Kentucky.
The winner keeps alive its hopes of qualifying for a bowl.
“It’s just slowing down for me,” said the younger Rodgers, who’s set to make his fourth consecutive start. “I’m seeing defenses better. We’re more in rhythm, and guys know what to expect from me.
“We’re all learning how to play with confidence and use the abilities we know we have, and I think you’re just going to see us keep getting better.”
The Commodores are averaging 24.8 points, a touchdown more than a year ago. And even more noticeably, they’re making the kind of explosive plays they haven’t made in years.
Vanderbilt leads the SEC with 25 plays of 30 yards or more. The Commodores also lead the league with 13 plays of 40 yards or more.
Rodgers, whose ability to scramble and make plays with his legs has helped to open up more things for the Commodores, is tied for third in the SEC with 10 completions of at least 30 yards.
“I’m getting more comfortable staying with my reads and going through my full progressions,” said Rodgers, who redshirted last season while recovering from shoulder surgery. “I’m learning to be more of a pocket passer, but still make plays outside the pocket. It’s something I can go to when I need to.”
Vanderbilt coach James Franklin was familiar with Rodgers because Franklin was on the Green Bay Packers’ staff when they drafted Aaron Rodgers.
“I was impressed with his athleticism, but when I got here, he was a little bit limited early on because of the surgery,” Franklin said. “This thing just kind of timed up good for him and good for our team as he got healthier and more comfortable with what we were doing offensively at the same time as our O-line started to come on as well as our receivers. Everything has kind of fallen into place from that perspective.”
Indeed, junior running back Zac Stacy is making a run at a 1,000-yard season. He has 756 rushing yards and is averaging 6.9 yards per carry. And with Rodgers’ emergence, sophomore receiver Jordan Matthews has really blossomed.
In the last two games, Matthews has 15 catches for 321 yards and two touchdowns.
“We feel as if we’re on the cusp of being great and feel like we’re the only ones stopping us the last couple of weeks,” Rodgers said. “We’re really close to putting together a full game and showing people the new Commodores and the new confidence that we have this year.”
Aaron Rodgers was in Nashville to take in the Arkansas game two weeks ago, Jordan said, and has caught most of the other Vanderbilt games on television.
He’d been telling Jordan since last season to hang in there and that his opportunity was going to come.
“The important thing was for me to be ready,” Jordan said. “Aaron was in that same position at Green Bay and Cal before that.
“You always have to prepare like you’re the starter, and when your moment does come, you have to capitalize on it.”