Cal quarterback believes he has top-pick stature
By RANDY COVITZ
The Kansas City Star
California quarterback Aaron Rodgers carefully sized up former San Francisco quarterback Steve Young when they met at a Super Bowl function this year.
Rodgers gave Young the once over, not because Young was one of Rodgers' boyhood heroes while growing up in northern California. And not because Young was about to be voted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
“He's a lot shorter than I thought he was,” Rodgers deadpanned, drawing some chuckles at the NFL Scouting Combine.
For the record, Young was listed at 6 feet 2 during his playing days, the same height Rodgers was measured at the combine. That was important to Rodgers, who is an accurate passer, a good decision maker and an unquestioned leader.
But the nagging question about Rodgers as a possible first overall pick in the NFL draft is he's not a prototypical 6-foot-4 quarterback as is his main competitor at the position, Alex Smith of Utah.
“I don't think height is a factor,” Rodgers said. “My idol, Joe Montana, was 6-2.”
Another common denominator between Rodgers and his 49er heroes Montana and Young is he takes extremely good care of the football.
Rodgers completed 63.8 percent of his passes with 43 TDs and just 13 interceptions in two seasons at Cal. In his second of two showdowns with Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart of Southern California, Rodgers completed 23 consecutive passes. Rodgers also handed USC its only loss of the 2003 season when he completed 18 of 25 passes for 217 yards and two TDs.
Some attribute Rodgers' efficient numbers to Cal coach Jeff Tedford's passer-friendly system of short, high-percentage passes that doesn't translate well to the NFL. Current first-rounders Kyle Boller and Joey Harrington, who are products of that system, have yet to blossom in the NFL, and Akili Smith was a bust.
“I'm not any of those guys,” Rodgers said. “I think my numbers speak for themselves. I think I did something not a lot of people expected me to do. I came in from a junior college and comprehended (Tedford's) offense in one year and mastered it in two.
“Physically, I think I'm as athletic as Kyle Boller was when he came out. My arm strength is adequate. My fundamentals are there. I think I have all the intangibles as well.”
One of the techniques taught by Tedford is called “ball on the shelf,” in which Rodgers holds the ball high in the air to get rid of it quickly. It makes him appear mechanical, but he's productive.
“Being mechanical is a good thing,” he said. “I do the same thing every time. It is better than holding the ball low. The ball is high, and I get it out of my hands quick and the defense can't react as quick. If the ball is low, I don't have any way to move into my throwing motion.”
Rodgers would love nothing better than to bring that style to his own back yard as the first pick of the draft.
“This was my childhood team growing up, and this whole process has been surreal,” he told reporters after a visit to the 49ers' facility last week. “I feel very confident they have the right people in place in San Francisco to be successful.
“Just talking to Coach (Mike) Nolan, and seeing how passionate he is about bringing this team back to the standards they set in the 1980s and early 1990s.”
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