Long ago, Aaron Rodgers set records in high school football the likes of which we hadn’t seen before. And long ago, Rodgers wasn’t recruited by Division I schools out of high school.
Rodgers stood at 5’10, 165 pounds as a high school senior and though he had all the ability in his arm to make every throw, he was under recruited and even spurned by his top school of choice — Bobby Bowden & Florida State. He had a walk-on and chance to earn a scholarship opportunity at Illinois and famously said he considered quitting football to study law during the process.
He instead chose to attend Butte Community College in Oroville, California after being recruited by the Roadrunners late in the game. All Rodgers did there was throw for 26 touchdowns and lead them to the NorCal conference championship and the No. 2 national ranking in his first season.
Former Cal head coach Jeff Tedford found Rodgers on a recruiting trip to Butte and essentially was enamored with the future Hall of Famer.
Rodgers transferred to Cal after one year at Butte, and thanks to an upstanding scholastic career, was able to play immediately. Rodgers threw 19 touchdowns and 2,903 yards in his first season and another 24 touchdowns and 2,566 yards in his second year before declaring early for the draft.
And we all know how his career has unfolded since that day.
So, in honor of SB Nation’s ‘What If’ week this week, I thought it best to take a look at the ultimate What If for the 21st century in Berkeley.
What if Aaron Rodgers never played college football?
That one is simple to start off with but starts a trickle-down effect afterwards.
Obviously, Rodgers doesn’t come to play in Berkeley.
He doesn’t then get drafted by the Green Bay Packers.
He doesn’t go on to replace Brett Favre while becoming an all-time great quarterback in the NFL.
He doesn’t throw multiple Hail Mary’s.
He doesn’t explode for arguably the best quarterback season in history (2011).
We know all that.
But what happens to Cal if Rodgers had never played?
The whole Athletics Department in Berkeley would be a completely different place had Rodgers decided to quit football after high school.
The football team looks different. Does Justin Forsett actually come over from the state of Texas just months after Rodgers plays his first snap had it not been for the QB? Would Desmond Bishop, the No. 2 player in the country, have stayed local the next year? Does DeSean Jackson make the trip north to Berkeley?
The list of players that could have gone elsewhere without Rodgers’ influence goes even further than the players that were committing to play football with him. It grows even more with every passing attempt since. Who doesn’t want to play quarterback in Berkeley, in the shadow of one of the former greats? Who doesn’t want to haul in touchdowns or prevent scores on the same field Rodgers became famous?
This is just personnel decisions, but his influence has become much, much more for Cal since his departure. There’s the famous seven-figure donation last summer that doesn’t happen. The Aaron Rodgers Football Scholarship doesn’t come to fruition. New locker rooms likely come, but likely at a later date.
The world is a completely different place had Rodgers not played college football, I can list out how so many more ways — but I’d rather hear it from you. You who have lived in or around Berkeley during a time before Rodgers. Maybe during Rodgers’ tenure. Perhaps you went to Cal because of Rodgers yourself.
How many of you are fans of Cal because of Rodgers? Better yet, how many rival hearts did he squash not only as a player but as an alum who has reached the pinnacle of the profession.
This is just an exercise in fiction, thankfully, because thankfully, Rodgers didn’t decide to go the law school route. Thankfully he didn’t give up football. Thankfully Rodgers has been the ire of many fans during his career. And thankfully he’s a Golden Bear.
Still, what if he wasn’t? What changes in your life?