Aaron Rodgers and the Best JUCO Success Stories of the BCS Era
Not all successful people take the conventional route up the proverbial ladder.
In fact, some of the greatest success stories of all time have stemmed from the greatest adventures, and that statement holds true in the world of college football recruiting.
The JUCO (junior college) route may be the road less traveled by elite recruits, but that doesn't make it any less valuable or legitimate. In fact, in some cases it's the smartest choice a recruit can make.
Some recruits just need a year or two to work things out and prepare for D-I football, whether it be because of the physical or academic demands of the big-time college level, and in many cases it ends up maturing said recruit and working in their favor.
Other recruits are just simply passed on and go the JUCO route with a chip on their shoulder—and that hunger and drive can lead to great things.
There are many different scenarios that are possible, but one thing's for certain: A JUCO recruit can go on to have immense success.
These former JUCO recruits will prove that point.
LeGarrette Blount, East Mississippi Community College (Oregon)
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LeGarrette Blount became one of the most explosive and physical running backs in recent college football history as a member of the Oregon Ducks.
In two seasons with Oregon, he notched 1,084 yards and 19 touchdowns. He could have run for more, but he was suspended for eight games in 2009 for punching Bryon Hout of Boise State after a game.
What many may forget is that Blount was actually a JUCO transfer to Oregon, recruited by the Ducks in 2008 as a 4-star JUCO running back. He was a running back, kick returner and punt returner for East Mississippi Community College for two seasons out of high school before transferring to Oregon.
Going from junior college to the NFL is no easy task, and you'll notice that it will be a theme on this list.
Daniel Thomas, Northwest Mississippi Community College (Kansas State)
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Kansas State head coach Bill Snyder has relied heavily on junior college transfers to build up the Wildcats program, and Daniel Thomas is one of his best success stories.
In his first year with the Wildcats, he notched 1,265 yards and 11 touchdowns. In 2010, Thomas ran for 1,585 yards and 19 touchdowns.
Jason Pierre-Paul, Fort Scott Community College (South Florida)
Via South Florida Athletics h/t Scout.com
In three seasons in the NFL, Jason Pierre-Paul has notched 27.5 sacks, five forced fumbles and 182 combined tackles.
He's arguably one of the best defensive players in the NFL right now, and he's certainly a force to be reckoned with.
But there was a time when the upside didn't seem so high for Pierre-Paul, and he spent two seasons playing for Fort Scott Community College rather than a major college.
He ended up standing out enough to be ranked as the No. 6 JUCO player in 2009 according to Rivals, and he transferred to South Florida for the 2009 season.
Pierre-Paul notched 45 total tackles, 16.5 tackles for loss, 6.5 sacks, one interception and two forced fumbles in 2009.
Lavonte David, Fort Scott Community College (Nebraska)
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Lavonte David was recruited to play football at Nebraska after a two-year stint in community college, where he was ranked as a 4-star JUCO outside linebacker for Fort Scott Community College.
He was also ranked as the No. 7 overall JUCO recruit in the 2010 class (Rivals).
David was an impressive JUCO player, but he really started to shine once he got to Nebraska. He was an All-American in 2011 and won the Butkus-Fitzgerald Big Ten Linebacker of the Year award, per his Huskers.com profile.
He also notched an incredible 276 total tackles, 11.5 sacks, three forced fumbles and two interceptions in 2010 and 2011 combined for Nebraska.
David was drafted in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft (Tampa Bay) and had a great 2012 NFL season, totaling 139 tackles and one interception.
He was a productive JUCO player, a very productive college linebacker, and that trend appears to be continuing on into the NFL.
Nick Fairley, Copiah-Lincoln Community College (Auburn)
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Nick Fairley was one of the most dominant defensive tackles in college football while at Auburn, but his college career actually started at Copiah-Lincoln Community College in Wesson, Mississippi.
According to Rivals.com, Fiarley was only ranked as a 3-star JUCO defensive tackle and the No. 95 overall JUCO player in 2009.
Fairley had actually signed with Auburn coming out of high school in 2007, but he didn't qualify and had to wait a year-and-a-half to get back as part of the Tigers' 2009 class.
He went on to notch 84 total tackles, 12.5 sacks and one interception in two seasons for Auburn as one of the key members of the Tigers' national championship squad.
Josh Heupel, Snow Junior College (Oklahoma)
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Some may know Josh Heupel as Oklahoma's co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach.
Others may know him as the quarterback that led Oklahoma to a BCS National Championship title in 2000.
But not many people know that Heupel actually went to Weber State out of high school and had to transfer to Snow Junior College in Utah because of an injury and regime change.
Eventually, Heupel stood out enough at Snow to get an offer from head coach Bob Stoops at Oklahoma.
Along with the championship win, Heupel was the Heisman Trophy runner-up, the Associated Press Player of the Year and CBS Player of the Year in 2000 (according to SoonersSports.com).
Not bad for a product of SJC.
Cam Newton, Blinn College (Auburn)
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Cam Newton is arguably one of the most explosive and exciting quarterbacks in college football history, and he's shown elite potential as a quarterback in the NFL.
Newton was the key member of Auburn's 2010 championship team and was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2011 NFL draft.
In one year at Auburn, he threw for 2,854 yards and 30 touchdowns while rushing for 1,473 yards and 20 touchdowns.
For as successful as Newton was and has been, it's easy to forget that he started his college career being recruited by the Florida Gators as a 5-star dual-threat quarterback (Rivals) in 2007, but transferred to Blinn College after reportedly facing possible expulsion (ESPN.com) from Florida for cheating academically and his arrest for buying a stolen computer.
Newton ended up at Auburn and became the dominant dual-threat quarterback that we know today.
Who knows what Newton's career would be like had he not gone to Blinn.
Aaron Rodgers, Butte Community College (Cal)
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Aaron Rodgers is easily one of the best quarterbacks in the world.
Rodgers is an NFL icon and his brightest days as a quarterback are arguably still ahead of him.
In eight NFL seasons, Rodgers has thrown for 21,661 yards, 171 touchdowns and only 46 interceptions. He's also rushed for 1,442 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Rodgers is a superstar, but that wasn't the case coming out of high school. There were concerns about his small size, and he only received a walk-on offer from Illinois, so he ended up going to Butte Community College in Oroville, California.
Rodgers threw for 5,469 yards and 43 touchdowns and rushed for 336 yards and eight touchdowns in 2003 and 2004 at Cal and was drafted by the Green Bay Packers with the No. 24 pick of the first round in the 2005 NFL draft.
The rest, as they say, is history.