Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Aaron Rodgers was told by Tampa Bay Buccaneers days before 2005 draft he would be the fifth overall pick

This is the story of how the Bucs let Super Bowl-winning quarterback Aaron Rodgers get away.

It's a loser's lament shared by many teams, for sure. The Cal star lasted until the Packers selected him 24th overall in the 2005 draft.

But considering the cross-country private workout arranged by then-Tampa Bay coach Jon Gruden, the surprise receiver sprung on the then-21-year-old Rodgers and the phone call a few days before the draft, at least Rodgers was convinced he would be a Buccaneer.

"Jon actually called me, when I was in New York, on Thursday, April 21 (two days before the draft), and sounded like at the time they were going to take me with the fifth pick,'' Rodgers said Wednesday.

The Bucs had three quarterbacks on their roster before that draft: Brian Griese, Chris Simms and Luke McCown. Veteran Tim Rattay was added before the trading deadline from the 49ers.

With Utah's Alex Smith and Rodgers considered the top quarterbacks in the draft, Gruden, then-Bucs quarterbacks coach Paul Hackett and then-general manager Bruce Allen traveled to Cal in Berkeley, Calif., near San Francisco, in spring 2005. Jerry Rice, the league's all-time receiving leader, had played for Gruden and Allen with the Raiders and lived in the San Francisco area.

They arranged a meeting with Rodgers and a private workout, and after watching film, told him the guy he would be throwing to would be a surprise.

"Jon … 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 and to work with Jon and Paul, great coaches who had been around the game a long time.''

The rest, as they say, is history.

Two days after telephoning Rodgers, the Bucs used the No. 5 overall pick to take Auburn running back Cadillac Williams, who became the NFL's offensive rookie of the year before two knee injuries sabotaged his career.

Smith went No. 1 overall to the 49ers.

Rodgers was selected by the Packers, sat four years behind Brett Favre, won a Super Bowl last season and has his team off to a 9-0 start heading into Sunday's game against the Bucs at Lambeau Field.

"I don't fault them for taking Cadillac," Rodgers said. "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 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.''

Aaron Rodgers was told by Tampa Bay Buccaneers days before 2005 draft he would be the fifth overall pick 11/16/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 16, 2011 10:49pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Minors also a training ground for umpires with big-league dreams

    The Heater

    Umpire Tom Fornarola, 23, left, and Taylor Payne, 24, facing, talk before the start of the Gulf Coast League game between the New York Yankees and the Detroit Tigers at the Tigertown complex in Lakeland, Fla. on Wednesday, July 5, 2017.
  2. For starters: Souza not in lineup vs. Rangers



  3. Remember that famous Fred McGriff TV commercial? He's back, in a parody


    If you've ever seen Fred McGriff's TV commerical for Tom Emanski's Defensive Drills video it will always be fresh in your mind, with the deadpan delivery and famously ill-fitting cap.

  4. Fennelly: Is Charlie Strong the anti-Freeze?


    The Hugh Sleaze era at Ole Mess is over.

    Hugh Freeze resigned as head football coach Thursday to avoid being fired by Mississippi school officials. For those of you who had NCAA violations and investigations in the pool, you were wrong. Nor was it the defamation lawsuit filed against the school by former Rebels …

    FILE - In this Sept. 5, 2016, file photo, Mississippi coach Hugh Freeze pauses during a timeout in the team's NCAA college football game against Florida State in Orlando, Fla. Freeze has resigned after five seasons, bringing a stunning end to a once-promising tenure. The school confirmed Freeze's resignation in a release Thursday night. Assistant Matt Luke has been named the interim coach. (AP Photo/John Raoux, File) NY176
  5. Rowdies part of a record-setting season for USL attendance


    ST. PETERSBURG — Although Rowdies fans haven't had many recent opportunities to show out at Al Lang, the United Soccer League turnstiles keep turning at a record rate.

    A Rowdies fan waves flags ahead of the first half of the game between Tampa Bay Rowdies and Orlando City B at Al Lang Stadium in St. Petersburg, Fla. on Saturday, March 25, 2017.