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.''