A Tale of Two Quarterbacks: Aaron Rodgers and Shaun Hill...Plus Alex Smith
In the 2005 NFL Draft, newly appointed 49ers Head Coach Mike Nolan was armed with the No. 1 overall pick.
Desperately seeking a quality quarterback, the 49ers had to choose between a Heisman Trophy finalist out of Utah in Alex Smith and a junior out of Cal in Aaron Rodgers.
Despite the fact that both quarterbacks were coming off phenomenal seasons in college, they were considered to be young and unseasoned. Smith was said to be a product of Urban Meyers' gimmick-oriented spread offense at Utah.
Rodgers bore the label of being a Jeff Tedford system quarterback.
In other words, both quarterbacks were thought to be a high risk when it came to successfully transitioning to the fast-paced and highly competitive NFL.
We all know what happened next. Smith was taken with the No. 1 pick and Rodgers slipped to the Green Bay Packers at No. 24.
Four years after that momentous day in 49er draft history, Smith finds himself competing for a chance to start against undrafted free agent Shaun Hill out of Maryland.
In sharp contrast, Rodgers has successfully established himself as the heir apparent to Brett Favre and is now the starter in Green Bay.
If only the 49ers had drafted Rodgers, some fans must be asking themselves. One can only speculate what might have happened had San Francisco gone the Aaron Rodgers route.
What most 49er fans don't realize though is how similar Rodgers and Hill are in terms of how they came to play in the NFL.
Take away the fact that Hill was undrafted and Rodgers was a first round pick, both quarterbacks had amazingly similar high school and college careers.
Neither was highly recruited out of high school, and both competed at the community college level before transferring to Division I NCAA schools.
Hill and Rodgers both to major college football programs with fairly new coaches in Maryland and California respectively. The two were backups in their first years in college and both had amazing, winnings seasons in their final years.
As a junior, Rodgers led the Golden Bears to a 10-1 record in 2004, with their only loss coming against No. 1 ranked USC in a closely contested game that the Bears lost 23-17.
As a senior, Hill led his Maryland Terrapins to an Atlantic Coast Conference title, a berth in the Orange Bowl, and a No. 10 final ranking in the polls. The Terrapins lost to No. 5 Florida in that bowl game.
Both Hill and Rodgers had to wait their turns for a shot at the starting role. Hill sat on the bench in frigid Minnesota while Rodgers sat behind Brett Favre in the frozen tundra of Green Bay.
We will never know what may have happened had the 49ers drafted Rodgers in 2005, but one thing is certain: Hill and Rodgers have amazingly similar backgrounds.
The 49ers may find they got their Aaron Rodgers after all in Shaun Hill.
I, for one, will be rooting for Shaun this season.
I don't think he will let 49er fans down.
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