NFL star Aaron Rodgers never far from Chico roots

Football

CHICO, Calif. (KTXL) — Aaron Rodgers is in his 16th NFL season, with a chance at hoisting the Lombardi Trophy for the second time in his career.

At age 37, the future Hall of Famer may not have had a better season than this year — even though he’s won league MVP honors twice before.

But there was a time as a high schooler in Chico when Rodgers’ football playing career was actually in question.

“Aaron was average height, average size, maybe a little on the smaller size,” Sterling Jackson, Rodgers’ high school football coach, told FOX40.

As a junior and senior at Pleasant Valley High School in Chico, Rodgers flew under the radar as the quarterback for the Vikings.

“Nobody saw it,” Ron Souza, the team’s offensive coordinator, said. “Who can judge a kid at 5-foot-9 or 5-foot-10?”

“Colleges would come in and, you know, just not understand that you have to project. You have to look at longevity. Where is he going to be in two, three, four years from now?” Jackson said.

But Rodgers was hungry, hard-working and had all the skills. Perhaps more importantly, his coaches knew a growth spurt was coming.

“The first time he stepped on our campus and he was a freshman with size 14 feet,” Jackson said.

“Huge feet. He could have made big bucks at Disneyland,” Souza said with a laugh. “But he did grow, and his senior year, he was the real deal. He started his senior year at about 6-foot, about 180 (pounds) and by the time he was a senior, he was about 6-2, about 195.”

His coaches say his body had to catch up, but Rodgers was already proving to be a leader. 

“The physical part was going to happen. That’s the easiest part. To be able to read and see things, his technique, his mechanics were outstanding,” Souza told FOX40. “The complete intangibles: He can control the huddle, he controls the people around him. He knows how to motivate people, how to make people at their best. That was all there.”

Rodgers had a nice career at Pleasant Valley High School, but he wasn’t heavily recruited. In fact, he only had one offer as a walk-on at the University of Illinois.

So he decided to go the junior college route at nearby Butte College, which turned out to be maybe the best decision of his football career.

“I thought that was a great fit. We were going to all be able to see exactly what he could do because he was going to be playing with just phenomenal athletes,” Jackson said.

His gamble paid off. Bigger and stronger, Rodgers led the Roadrunners to a 10-1 season, winning the NorCal Conference championship.

He threw 26 touchdowns that season to just four interceptions and caught the eye of Cal head coach Jeff Tedford.

After two seasons with the Golden Bears, Rodgers was selected in the first round of the 2005 NFL draft by the Green Bay Packers, where he has played ever since.

“It’s an awesome story and it’s something we talk about every single year with our seniors as they’re getting recruited or not being recruited,” Pleasant Valley coach Mark Cooley said.

Despite all of his success in Green Bay, maybe Rodgers’ best quality is that he always wants to help.

“His thing is, you know, ‘If you need it and I can help you, I will,’” Jackson said.

Rodgers has given helmets to Paradise High School, Chico High School and Pleasant Valley High School, plus thousands of dollars to local schools and communities, as well as $1 million to help families affected by the deadly Camp Fire. Recently, he has donated $500,000 to the Barstool Relief Fund to assist small businesses struggling through the pandemic. 

“That’s just what you know and the people know,” Souza said. “He’s done a lot more than that.”

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