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Thursday, December 13, 2018

Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger Had Only One Scholarship Offer for College

As we prepare for Super Bowl 45, we’ve compared Aaron Rodgers and Ben Roethlisberger. We’ve contrasted their styles of preparation; partying for Big Ben, studying for Rodgers. Given each of their public images, in many ways this is a game of good vs. evil.

But there is one thing that both quarterbacks have in common.

As LBS contributor Blackjack pointed out, neither quarterback had much interest from colleges coming out of high school. To the best of our knowledge, they each only had one scholarship offer to play quarterback throughout their careers — Cal for Rodgers coming out of junior college, and Miami (Ohio) for Roethlisberger.

In case you never knew it, Roethlisberger wasn’t even a quarterback in high school until his senior season. Big Ben’s high school coach at Findlay High School in Ohio actually picked his own son to quarterback the team, leaving Roethlisberger at receiver. Coach Cliff Hite had his son, Ryan Hite, quarterback the team in their option offense saying his son was a better runner than Big Ben, and that the Hite-to-Roethlisberger combination was more effective for the team than the other way around. His junior season, Big Ben caught 57 passes for 751 yards and seven touchdowns. Luckily Ben became the team’s quarterback in his senior season and threw for 54 touchdowns. Perhaps this accounts for Big Ben’s problems with his home town.

Because of his late switch over to quarterback, few schools recruited him for the position. Roethlisberger wound up enrolling at Miami University and starting as a true freshman. In his three years at school before leaving for the NFL draft, he accumulated nearly 11,000 passing yards, 80 touchdown passes, a 65.5 completion percentage, and he led the Redhawks to a 13-1 season his final year.

Aaron Rodgers took an even more circuitous path to quarterbacking stardom. At Pleasant Valley High School, Rodgers started for two years and threw for just over 4,400 yards, but he was undersized at the time and only received one offer — to walk on at Illinois. San Diego State was also interested until coach Ted Tollner was fired. Instead, Rodgers decided to stay close to home at Butte Community College in Northern California, and he threw for 28 touchdowns in his only season there.

Cal coach Jeff Tedford went to Butte to recruit the team’s tight end, Garrett Cross, when he famously realized Rodgers was a keeper. On his way home from seeing Butte practice, Tedford reportedly called to offer Rodgers a scholarship to play for the Golden Bears. Rodgers went on to Cal where he starred for two seasons, throwing for 43 touchdowns against 13 interceptions while his team went 18-8. Rodgers helped Cal beat USC in his sophomore season and his team nearly knocked off USC the next year, a game in which Rodgers completed 23 straight passes in one of the best performances I’ve seen by a college quarterback.

Rodgers also left school after his junior season to enter the NFL draft, and he famously was passed over until the Packers selected him with the 24th overall pick in 2005. The Cal product sat behind Brett Favre for three years before starting in 2008 where he burst onto the scene with 28 touchdown passes. Two impressive years later, he’s led his team to the Super Bowl.

Along with Rodgers and Roethlisberger, ESPN Rise writes about 13 other players involved in the Super Bowl who had little interest coming out of high school. That list includes Defensive Player of the Year James Harrison who was undrafted, and Clay Matthews who was a walk-on at USC. It just goes to show you that players develop at their own pace, and that coaches and scouts often miss out on talented players early on.

Pictures via Lost Letterman

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