When quarterback Aaron Rodgers faces the Chicago Bears on September 9, he'll be walking onto Lambeau Field as the highest-paid player in NFL history. On Wednesday, the Green Bay Packers reached an agreement with Rodgers, 34, on a four-year contract extension worth a reported $134 million.
Rodgers already has a Super Bowl ring, two MVP awards, and six Pro Bowl selections to his name in a career that is sure to secure him a spot in the NFL Hall of Fame when he eventually retires (his new deal runs through 2023). But, there was once a time when the idea of Rodgers having any career in professional football — much less finding his place among the NFL's all-time great players — seemed like a far-fetched dream.
In 2002, Rodgers nearly quit football. At the time, Rodgers had just finished high school in Chico, California, where he'd played quarterback and set passing records for his high school team. However, despite his skills at the position, Rodgers was also a late-bloomer, physically, who measured at just 5'10" and 165 pounds — several inches and at least 20 pounds below most of the top quarterbacks who get recruited by major college football programs.
When the undersized Rodgers failed to receive a college football scholarship from any Division 1 schools, he says he almost quit the sport and considered either playing baseball instead or even studying to become a lawyer. Rodgers seriously considered ending his football career before it started, he said in a 2014 interview, but "football was still my first love, so that kind of won out," he says.
"It just made me work that much harder, I think," Rodgers says of the rejections he received from colleges like Purdue University and the University of Wisconsin.
Instead of quitting football, Rodgers spent the summer after he graduated from high school training harder than ever until a coach from Butte Community College in Oroville, California convinced him to spend a year playing football at the junior college, after which he could try to transfer to a larger school.
Rodgers won the starting quarterback job at Butte in his freshman season, throwing 28 touchdowns and leading the team to the second overall spot in the national junior college rankings. (He also kept growing and adding muscle, which meant that Rodgers measured 6'2" and weighed 200 pounds by the time he was playing in junior college.)