Growing up as the younger brother of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers could have been a blessing or a burden for Jordan Rodgers, the redshirt junior quarterback at Vanderbilt.
He chose the blessing.
"We grew up like all brothers do, playing every kind of sport in the front yard and being competitive in everything we do," Jordan said this week. "With me aspiring to be a quarterback and him kind of laying the groundwork in high school and college, I always had an older brother to look up to and get advice from. What he's doing in the NFL is what I aspire to, so the more I can soak up the more it can help me.
"I am extremely proud of him."
And the feeling is more than mutual.
When the Packers had their off week in late October, Aaron flew to Nashville to watch Jordan perform in a heartbreaking 31-28 loss to Arkansas. Aaron tracks Vanderbilt games on television, which is sure to include Saturday night's showdown at Tennessee on ESPNU.
Vanderbilt is 5-5 and a win shy of bowl eligibility under first-year coach James Franklin and behind the play of Rodgers, who has led the Commodores to five straight games of 20 or more points. That has not happened in the same season since 1984.
"He's a lot faster than I am, and he's a better athlete," Aaron said on his weekly radio show in Milwaukee after returning from Nashville. "I see some of the same mannerisms when he's in the pocket. He does a nice job of keeping his eyes downfield as he moves toward the line of scrimmage, which I really feel is when you're the most dangerous."
The Commodores' Rodgers has completed 80 of 155 passes this season for 1,166 yards with seven touchdowns and six interceptions, and he has rushed 80 times for 305 yards and four scores. The 6-foot-2, 205-pounder began the year coming off the bench for Larry Smith. He subbed a final time on Oct. 15, when he entered against Georgia and rallied Vandy by rushing 11 times for 80 yards in a 33-28 loss.
The Commodores rank just 99th nationally in total offense, but they were 117th before Rodgers assumed the reins.
"The thing I've been impressed with and I was impressed with from the time I got on campus is his athleticism," Franklin said. "I was in Green Bay when we drafted his brother, so I had some background with his family."
Aaron and Jordan were not highly recruited out of high school and attended Butte Junior College in their hometown of Chico, Calif. Aaron was discovered by California coach Jeff Tedford and went on to become a first-round draft pick in 2005.
Though he now is the reigning Super Bowl MVP and the NFL's career leader in passer rating during the regular season and playoffs, Aaron coached Jordan's eighth-grade basketball team during his time at Butte. The oldest Rodgers brother, Luke, also helped coach, but it didn't go smoothly for Aaron and Jordan.
The Associated Press
Vanderbilt quarterback Jordan Rodgers, the brother of Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, has rejuvenated the Commodores offensively entering Saturday night's game at Tennessee.
"I've always been the stubborn kind, and he's always been really particular," Jordan said. "He's one to critique, and back then I wasn't mature enough to learn how to take those critiques and learn from him. I thought I was doing everything right, and he would tell me something, and I would get mad. I'm sure I was a difficult one to deal with."
Said Aaron: "I pushed him probably harder than the other kids on the team because I knew what he was capable of. Our relationship was a little bit rocky in high school, but then he probably thought it was cool his brother was in the NFL, and that's what he wanted to do, so our relationship has really grown these last four or five years."
Monday is a day off for Vanderbilt players, and Jordan did his video preparation before watching Green Bay whip Minnesota on Monday Night Football to improve to 9-0. The Commodores practice every Sunday, so watching the Packers, especially when they have late-afternoon kickoffs, can get difficult.
This week may not compare to a Super Bowl, but a victory over Tennessee would be just the second for the Commodores in the series since 1982. It also would clinch only the second bowl for Vanderbilt during that stretch.
"It's a lot bigger outside of our locker room," Jordan said. "Everyone we talk to says, 'Beat UT,' or is chanting, 'Beat UT!' but to us it really is just another game. We've got to be 1-0 this week."
Rodgers has been more impressive running the ball but is striving to be a pass-first quarterback for Franklin, who appreciates the dynamic his quarterback has with his famous brother but doesn't overplay it.
"It's kind of like when you coach a kid who is a coach's son," Franklin said. "Jordan is learning a lot of football he's not even realizing he's learning just by being around him, but we don't spend a lot of time talking about it because Aaron Rodgers isn't playing for us.
"Jordan is, and we're happy we have him."