Quarterback helped resurrect program

BERKELEY, Calif. -- California quarterback Aaron Rodgers
will skip his senior season to enter the NFL draft, capping his
impressive two-year transformation from a junior college star to a
top pro prospect.

"I just feel like it's too big of an opportunity to pass up,"
Rodgers said Monday. "I'm looking forward to competing with the
other quarterbacks for a chance to make an NFL team, and I'm
fulfilling a childhood dream."

Under the tutelage of coach Jeff Tedford, Rodgers showed the
talent and skill of a future NFL star in just two years with the
Golden Bears, whose season ended last week with a 45-31 loss to
Texas Tech in the Holiday Bowl.

Rodgers passed for 2,566 yards and 24 touchdowns this season,
his only full year as Cal's starter. He is seventh on Cal's career
passing yardage list with 5,469 yards.

Tedford supported Rodgers' decision, particularly after
consulting with several experts and former players who believe
Rodgers could be the first quarterback taken in April, probably
going high in the first round.

"The opportunity that he has doesn't come around all the
time," Tedford said. "Any time you're going to be the first or
second quarterback taken, you've got to take a strong look at it
… and the financial rewards are tremendous for your family and
your future."

Rodgers signed with Cal after one year at Butte Junior College
in his native Chico, and started the Bears' final 10 games last
season. He passed for 2,903 yards and 19 touchdowns while
completing more than 60 percent of his passes, throwing just five
interceptions and leading Cal to a victory in the Insight Bowl.

This season, Rodgers was the star of a Bears offense that set a
school record with 492.4 yards per game. He had a better passing
efficiency than Heisman Trophy winner Matt Leinart, and he joined
the Southern California star on the Pac-10's first team.

Rodgers' numbers declined in the second half of this season when
his top four receivers all were sidelined or slowed by various
injuries, but he still led Cal (10-2) to its most accomplished
season in a half-century. The Bears achieved their highest ranking
since 1952 and went unbeaten at home for the first time since 1950.

Rodgers also helped his pro stock by playing his best game
against top-ranked USC. Though the Bears lost 23-17, Rodgers
completed 23 straight passes and got his team within a few yards of
the possible winning touchdown in the final seconds.

After Cal's 41-6 victory over Stanford in the Big Game last
November, Rodgers was carried off the field on the shoulders of his
fellow students. He called it a high point of his life.

"It's been thrilling to me to see the change in Cal football
over the past two years," Rodgers said. "I enjoyed every moment
at Cal. The school was tough, but I've enjoyed each and every
moment on the field."

After a brief vacation at home, Rodgers plans to begin
preparations for pre-draft workouts and camps. He hasn't chosen an
agent yet.

With a strong arm, excellent mechanics and plenty of field
smarts, Rodgers' game seems well suited for the NFL. He's the
latest standout produced by Tedford, who masterminded the
development of first-round picks Kyle Boller, Joey Harrington,
Akili Smith, David Carr and Trent Dilfer.

"He's as good as any of them," Tedford said. "He has all the
physical abilities you could want, and the maturity and mental
[acumen] he has shown is really something to see."

Tedford already prepared for life without Rodgers by signing
Joseph Ayoob, the state's top junior college quarterback, last
month. Nathan Longshore, a well-regarded high school prospect who
redshirted this season, also returns.