His own man

Jordan Rodgers shrugs off pressure to emulate big bro

Jordan Rodgers is healthy, fit and mentally prepared to take on Division I this fall at Vanderbilt.

Jordan Rodgers is healthy, fit and mentally prepared to take on Division I this fall at Vanderbilt.

Photo By angelo poli

After watching his brother travel to the Super Bowl and come away with a title and MVP honors, Jordan Rodgers should be feeling the pressure. He should feel the eyes of the media and sports analysts, scouts and managers watching his every step to make sure he follows his brother’s exact footsteps.

That is hardly the case.

The 22-year-old Chico native is forging his own trail through college football. After redshirting his first year at Vanderbilt University with a shoulder injury, Rodgers is now competing for the starting quarterback position against two-year veteran Larry Smith.

“I expect to win a job this fall. I’ll be competing for the starting job with a guy who has started the last couple years, but it’s an open competition,” he said during a Skype interview from Nashville, Tenn.

Rodgers is focused on staying healthy to help turn the team around, despite the never-ending analyzing he receives because of his kinship to Aaron.

“Right now people are asking, ‘Is this guy even going to be any good?’ but once I start playing, I think the comparisons will come out a little more,” Rodgers said. “Our strengths are different, but on the field you will see that we are similar in how we approach the game.”

While the similarities on the field have yet to be seen, others are undeniable.

Aaron, for example, was denied a Division I scholarship out of high school and headed instead to Butte College. He then battled for playing time after making it to Cal Berkeley. If that sounds familiar, it’s because the younger Rodgers started at Butte, too. He helped lead the team to at 12-0 record and its first state and national titles, and now he’s waiting for his shot at Vanderbilt.

At Berkeley, Aaron became the starting quarterback in his junior season and led the Golden Bears to a 10-1 record. By the time he left Cal, he was fully expected to be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft but slipped to the 24th spot overall. And, as all fans know, he played backup quarterback to Brett Favre for three years before his breakout season in 2008, which eventually led to a Super Bowl championship in 2011 for Green Bay. It was quite a road to that level from his start at Butte College.

When comparing the brothers, those who know them best—their parents and coach—acknowledge the younger Rodgers is more gifted when it comes to speed. Jeff Jordan was the acting offensive coordinator and quarterback coach for both brothers at Butte College and said they both had a competitive drive on the field.

“I’ve always said that Jordan was a better athlete than Aaron—even comparing them both as freshmen,” said Jordan, Butte’s current head coach. “He has the ability to run around a little more, but Aaron’s arm strength is really ridiculous in a good sense.”

Jordan says the younger Rodgers has never attempted to ride his brother’s coattails to success and that the comparisons haven’t shaken him.

“They are a close-knit family, but Jordan is his own guy. He’s very supportive of his brother and at the same time he draws knowledge from Aaron,” he said.

Rodgers’ mother, Darla, echoed him, crediting her younger son for achieving his own success.

“Jordan’s goal was to play Division I football, and he did that all on his own,” she said. “We just really try to encourage our boys to be good men and to use their gifts.”

For now, Rodgers has his eye on that starting quarterback position.

To ready himself, he spent the last three weeks of May training in Chico with Angelo Poli, owner of Whole Body Fitness, a personal-training facility. There, Rodgers focused on technique and form as opposed to the emphasis on weight and intensity training in Nashville, he said.

Instead of zeroing in on muscle mass, for example, Poli and Rodgers worked to obtain the perfect body posture that would help tremendously in weight training. His workouts even included ballet classes, to improve balance. A balanced build will help prevent future injuries as Rodgers heads into heavier training. Back in Nashville, he continues to check with his Chico trainer once a week using Skype.

Poli, who has also worked with big brother Aaron, is confident that the younger Rodgers’ grit and training will make a difference in the fall at Vanderbilt.

“Watching his range of motion, strength and resilience, he’s ready to start. I can now say that I have worked with [some] of the best football players in the world, and watching his conditioning level, Jordan is one of them,” Poli said.

For his part, Rodgers says he’s indeed ready.

“I have two years left, and I hope to build on what I do this season,” Rodgers said. “I want to solidify in people’s minds that I can play at the next level. It’s always been my goal.”