The Daily Illini

Column: The change a day makes

By Jon Gluskin

Before Saturday’s portion of the NFL Draft, all I knew about Cal’s Aaron Rodgers was that he had a high release, and was considered one of the top players in the draft.

Now I know a whole lot more about him – and none of it has to do with football.

Just days ago, Rodgers was being considered by the 49ers as the No. 1 overall pick.

Life can be cruel sometimes.

Aaron Rodgers went on a freefall.

The Titans at No. 6? Steve McNair’s bound to retire soon, so Rodgers could have been his replacement, right? Nope, they chose West Virginia’s cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones.

How about the Redskins at No. 9? There’s no way they could have been content with Mark Brunell and Patrick Ramsey as their quarterbacks. So they took Rogers – Carlos, that is (CB, Auburn).

There came a point where you just had to feel bad for him. I know I did.

After the first handful of picks, and Rodgers’ name was still unannounced by Commissioner Paul Tagliabue, he was interviewed by ESPN’s Suzy Kolber.

What would you expect Rodgers to do being a young, 21st century athlete, one who’s been blessed with talent and has been told how good he is all of his life?

It probably wouldn’t have surprised anyone if Rodgers had complained, telling the world how good he is and how all these teams who passed him up are going to regret their decision.

He could have cried and whined, but he didn’t.

Instead, he handled himself like a mature grown-up, and not the 21-year-old college kid that he is.

He answered every question gracefully and respectfully, never putting his head down.

When Kolber asked him one question to the effect of how he’s able to handle falling down the draft, he replied, it builds character.

This “character” is something so many athletes seem to lack. Just look at the Bears’ first round selection at No. 4, Texas’ Cedric Benson.

In Benson’s post-pick interview, he complained about how he just never got the respect he deserved throughout his life.

At least he was drafted in the top five, but still managed to pout.

While Rodgers’ pride had to have been hurt, he didn’t show it.

Somewhere around the 12th pick, I was looking at the upcoming teams that would be drafting, go by on the ticker, and all of the teams were pretty set with the quarterback position. I really couldn’t believe that a guy who had been touted so highly just days ago could fall so far and so fast.

The only hint of frustration we saw out of Rodgers was when he exhaled a deep breath with a discouraged look on his face after one team’s pick came in and it wasn’t him.

As the ticker came up to the No. 24 slot, and as I thought this could be where he’d be picked, the ESPN analysts started talking about the same thing. At No. 24, the Green Bay Packers were selecting. They’re a team with needs, but not desperate needs and knew that in a few years, when Brett Favre retires, they would need a replacement.

Sure enough, the names kept going and Rodgers still didn’t have a home. When the Oakland Raiders took Nebraska CB Fabian Washington at No. 23, it was time for Rodgers.

When the Packers handed in their draft card and Tagliabue walked to the podium, the whole building got excited. Chris Berman was pumped, saying the Packers had to choose Rodgers.

As the normally poker-faced Tagliabue began reading the selection, even he couldn’t hold back a smile.

When Aaron Rodgers’ name was called a few too many picks overdue, the whole building applauded with noise and energy that hadn’t been evident at all prior to that moment.

If you’re someone who believes in the philosophy that all things happen for a reason, what happened to Aaron Rodgers should have made your belief stronger.

Rodgers ended up in probably the best position out of any player drafted in the first round. He gets to mature and grow under the mastery of Favre for the next couple of years at most, and then he gets to take control of one of the most storied NFL franchises.

He will have some terrific receivers and a workhorse running back that will keep the Packers a contender in Rodgers’ first year starting.

Yes, I know he’s a Packer which means we have to despise him. Maybe we can show respectable character and make an exception.

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