Jordan Rodgers experienced more drama than he expected eight years ago — and he wasn’t the one put through the draft day wringer.
After watching his older brother, Aaron, endure an emotional roller coaster during the 2005 NFL Draft, Jordan plans to keep his draft weekend low-key and in the comfort of his parents’ house in Chico, Calif.
“I’m just going to stay at home and watch,” he said. “I’m not going to have a draft party. I’m not going to have cameras here. It is just going to be me and my family.”
After two seasons at Vanderbilt, the younger Rodgers is not a sure-fire draft pick due to questions about his size and arm strength. Then again, the selection process, set for April 25-27, rarely offers any guarantees.
In 2005, Aaron appeared to be a lock as a top 10 pick and there was speculation his childhood team, the San Francisco 49ers, might take him No. 1 overall. With a nationally televised audience watching, Aaron sat uncomfortably in the green room at Radio City Music Hall for more than four hours. The 49ers chose Alex Smith. Twenty-one teams passed on Aaron. Donovan McNabb’s mother, who saw her son booed by Philadelphia Eagles fans in the 1999 draft, delivered encouraging words to Aaron’s mother.
Jordan, a sophomore in high school at the time, sat alongside his brother as the saga unfolded.
“They were cleaning up tables in the green room. Cameras were on us the whole time,” Jordan said. “It was a very frustrating time for my brother. Being the competitor he is, knowing and feeling he was better than a lot of the guys who were coming off the board and feeling that he had been told one thing from teams and they were making other decisions. So, a frustrating time but I think that motivated him even more. I think he still carries that chip with him today and I think that is a reason why he is so successful.
“His career might not end up the way it is if he hadn’t fallen to 24 and gone to Green Bay. It was a blessing in the end.”
Aaron, of course, made a name for himself. Brett Favre’s successor led Green Bay to a Super Bowl title in 2011, was named MVP the following season and is consider one of the top five quarterbacks in the NFL.
His success has provided Jordan with more exposure. But he has no intentions of banking on his last name.
“There are a lot of people out there that if I get drafted are going to mumble, ‘Oh, that is only because he is Aaron’s brother,’ ” Jordan said. “Well, it is a business. An NFL team is not going to pick a player because of their last name. My last name may get me more notoriety right now. … In the end, my game is going to speak for itself. You are going to flip on the film and you’re not going to see my brother. You’re going to see my game. If I get drafted it is because of what I’ve done not because of my last name.”
Jordan hopes the tape NFL scouts watch includes most of last season’s action. As a senior, he emerged as much more than a mobile quarterback, completing 59.9 percent of his passes for 2,539 yards, 15 touchdowns and just five interceptions.
It was a vast improvement from 2011. He struggled through inconsistent spurts and adjusted to coach James Franklin’s pro-style offense. Plus, he was seeing game reps for the first time since shoulder surgery after transferring from a junior college.
Either way, he knows the sample size probably wasn’t enough to convince some teams he is NFL material. At 6-foot-1, his height may hinder his opportunities, which he calls “one of the dumbest aspects of evaluating a quarterback.” Weighing in at 214 pounds, Jordan thinks he has a solid frame and noted that
injury never kept him from missing a game in his college career.
“I have shown my durability playing in the SEC,” he said. “You’re not going to get hit more and hit harder by better athletes in any other conference.”
The other concern is arm strength. He believes he dispelled those worries at his pro day last month with scouts from 24 teams in attendance.
Due to an injured groin, he couldn’t run the 40-yard dash, which he thinks he can run in the “high 4.5 range.” But he still aired out throws of more than 45 yards at Tennessee State’s indoor practice facility.
“I would have liked to run but it was more important to show my mobility throwing and show my arm strength,” he said. “I think I showed them exactly what they needed to see. I think I threw the deep ball better than anything else that day. I got the knock of having a below average NFL arm. I don’t believe that. I know I can make every throw on the field. I’ve made every throw on the field.”
Despite not being invited to the NFL Combine, which he resents, Jordan has talked to a handful of teams on phones. He says some scouts and offensive coordinators have told him he’ll be a draft pick.
If that happens, it will be a “big accomplishment” for a player who didn’t receive any Division I offers out of high school.
But after watching his brother’s experience eight years ago he knows draft day isn’t everything.
“Every single person, from first round through seventh, is going to have to get to camp and prove they can play,” he said. “It doesn’t matter what draft pick you are. You have to show up — whether that is in mini-camp; whether that is in rookie camp — you got to prove you can play. I’m just looking to get my foot in the door and prove to everybody I can and do belong in the league.”