Once upon a time, Aaron Rodgers was convinced he would be the quarterback of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
The Bucs held the fifth pick in the draft and Rodgers was almost certain the Bucs would be calling his name. After all, the Bucs traveled across the country for a private workout and they brought with them Jerry Rice to catch passes from Rodgers, as Rick Stroud of the St. Petersburg Times detailed.
“Jon (Gruden) said he had a surprise for me after we kind of watched some film and talked some ball,'' Rodgers said. “One of my childhood, favorite players, being a huge 49ers fan growing up, Jerry Rice comes walking down the steps, and I get to throw passes to him.
“Think about a 21-year-old kid throwing to one of your idols, how nervous you think you would be, I was that and then some. I overthrew him a couple times, but it was exciting to be able to throw to him.''
Gruden called Rodgers two days before the draft and he figured it was a lock if he made it to the fifth pick. Then, the Bucs drafted Cadillac Williams and, well, the history was made for the Green Bay Packers.
“I don't fault them for taking Cadillac,” Rodgers said as he prepares to face the Buccaneers this Sunday. “He had an incredible college career and a great rookie season. He was slowed down by some injuries.
“But I don't blame them at all or don't hold any animosity toward Jon and Bruce (Allen) or the organization. Everything kind of happens for a reason. Looking back on when they came out and visited me in Berkeley, that was one of my top moments in my sports career, being able to throw to Jerry Rice.''
Nearly every team in the league can play the what-if game when it comes to Rodgers, who is on pace to have a record-setting season. Of course, that list is topped by the San Francisco 49ers, who had the No. 1 pick and drafted Utah quarterback Alex Smith instead. The Niners probably could have rounded up Rice to catch passes from Rodgers as well, right?
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Brad Biggs covers the Bears for the Chicago Tribune