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Friday, October 24, 2008
Patience pays off for Rodgers

By Mike Loveday
ESPNRISE.com

Patience. It's the one thing Green Bay Packers' quarterback Aaron Rodgers has proved he has without a doubt.

In high school, he passed on the only Division I-A offer he had in hopes of getting a better offer, and after college he famously waited in the green room at the NFL Draft for his name to be called. All he had to do next was wait four seasons before he got his shot at NFL stardom.

Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers was named first team All-Pac-10 in 2004.

This week, Rodgers is the latest NFL player to be profiled in our continuing series on ESPN RISE about unknown preps who became big-time pros. He's someone whom those of you who aren't currently being recruited might gain some encouragement from. Like Terrell Owens, the player who was featured last week, Rodgers was unknown, unlucky, unrecruited and unappreciated in high school.

Rodgers had the numbers after his senior season at Pleasant Valley High School in Chico, Calif. He had thrown for 4,419 yards over his junior and senior seasons and had set school records for most touchdowns in a game (six) and all-purpose yards (440). But even with those numbers, the one thing he did not have was a scholarship offer to play Division I-A football. The closest was an invitation from Illinois to walk on.

A quarterback from California being overlooked might sound strange at first, but not to anyone from Chico or the region of Northern California north of Sacramento. Rodgers was also a skinny kid who was a few inches short, which kept away some college coaches.

Rather than walk on at Illinois, Rodgers took an offer to attend Butte Community College in hopes of attracting more offers. It worked.

Rodgers led Butte to a 10-1 record and the NorCal Conference championship and caught the attention of University of California head coach Jeff Tedford. As a sophomore at Cal, Rodgers did not have to wait long to get a shot at the starting job, and as irony would have it, his first start would be against Illinois, the only school to show interest in him as a high schooler.

Rodgers went 20-for-37 for 263 yards and a touchdown in that first game as he guided the Golden Bears to a 31-24 victory over the Illini.

Over the next two years, Rodgers would put up big numbers and finally be noticed. He earned the Insight Bowl Offensive MVP award in 2003 and followed up his junior season with first-team All-Pac 10 honors his senior year.

Through two seasons at Cal, Rodgers totaled 5,469 yards, 43 touchdowns and only 13 interceptions. After a stellar senior season, Rodgers was ready for his shot at NFL stardom.

When Rodgers woke up on the morning of April 23, 2005, he probably expected it to be a short day. Mostly because the experts were predicting he would be one of the first few picks. Some said he would be picked first by the San Francisco 49ers.

Rodgers grew up pulling for the 49ers, so the idea of being the No. 1 pick and following in the footsteps of Joe Montana and Steve Young appeared to be a fairy tale.

But the fairy tale came to a screeching halt.

San Francisco opted to take Utah's Alex Smith with the first pick, and while Miami, Chicago, Tennessee and Arizona seemed to have holes at quarterback, none of them selected Rodgers.

So he waited. While the likes of Cedric Benson, Troy Williamson, Adam Jones and Mike Williams were taken ahead of him and left him famously all alone in the green room, Rodgers waited.

Aaron Rodgers
Rodgers waited until the 24th pick to finally hear his name called at the NFL Draft.

It was not until the 24th pick that the Green Bay Packers surprised everyone by taking Rodgers. It was a surprise because the Packers still had Brett Favre taking snaps, but the Packer legend had toyed with retirement the previous few years.

While Favre continued his streak of consecutive games played, Rodgers had to wait to get his shot -- a chance that came this year when Favre announced his retirement shortly after the 2007 season.

Rodgers had already been in the league three years, and of the names previously mentioned, he is the only one with the same team that drafted him.

Through seven games this year, Rodgers has thrown for 1,668 yards and 12 touchdowns and has a quarterback rating of 98.8. The Packers sit in second place in the NFC North with a 4-3 record.

While his story is not over, Rodgers appears to be handling the job of taking over for a legend well, and his patience seems to be paying off.

Mike Loveday covers high school sports for ESPNRISE.com