It was a 29-yard touchdown pass in Super Bowl XLV to open the scoring on what would be another Lombardi Trophy for the Green Bay Packers. But it’s not the touchdown or the Super Bowl win….it’s the men that made it happen.
Aaron Rodgers grew up in a hotbed of high school football talent in California. From his high school alone, three players received scholarships to play college football. He and two of his teammates were given the opportunity to play for…the local community college.
That’s right. Rodgers, like several other NFL stars, did not receive one Division I offer coming out of high school. But, he did not give up on the dream. Instead, after considering giving up football, he enrolled at Butte Community College where he was discovered by California coach Jeff Tedford, who immediately signed the future Packers QB.
Rodgers had a solid career as a Golden Bear leading Cal to a 10-1 record and a top-five ranking in 2004. He decided to forego his senior season at Cal, entered the NFL Draft, and was expected to be the first pick. Didn’t happen. But he was picked by the Packers in Round 1, spent a few years as Brett Favre’s backup, and now has a Super Bowl ring…and a Super Bowl MVP.
The receiver on the other end of that Super Bowl touchdown? Jordy Nelson. Not a household name, but he never was. Like Rodgers, Nelson had no Division I offers coming out of Riley County HS in western Kansas. Nelson was a tremendous athlete–he won the 100, 200, 400, and long jump at the Kansas state track meet his senior year–but could only muster a walk-on opportunity at Kansas State. He took it.
Nelson was a free safety his freshman year before head coach Bill Snyder asked him to move to wide receiver. The move paid off. By the time Nelson was a senior, he was a Biletnikoff Award finalist and an All-American. He was a second-round draft pick of the Packers and wound up on the receiving end of that first-quarter touchdown in Super Bowl XLV.
And so the story goes…young talented athlete. Can’t get a look anywhere. But he doesn’t quit. He perseveres. And he makes it. Clay Matthews, Tony Romo, Michael Strahan, and Terrell Owens. None of them had a legitimate Division I football scholarship offer coming out of high school. But every single one of them ended up in the NFL.