Has there ever been a time in NFL history when three former Northern California quarterbacks all began the season with a legitimate chance to be MVP of the league?
It doesn’t look like it to me. Barring injury, the three, of course, are Tom Brady of the New England Patriots, Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers and Colin Kaepernick of the San Francisco 49ers.
All three of these quarterbacks were covered by Cal-Hi Sports when they were in high school with various degrees of involvement. None of the three were big-time, five star-type prospects, although Brady was close.
Brady came to the second-ever NorCal prospect combine/camp that was put on by Student Sports and Cal-Hi Sports in May of 1994 at Saint Mary’s College in Moraga. This was the event that became the popular Nike camps. Brady was one of the two or three best quarterbacks there, but at the time was not clearly THE best.
In his senior year at Serra-San Mateo, Brady was regarded as the top quarterback in the Bay Area. It’s not like he was overlooked by colleges, but it’s true that a few didn’t offer that quickly. He signed with Michigan, which a few years earlier landed a Bay Area quarterback from Palo Alto named Jim Harbaugh.
The primary reason Brady wasn’t as highly honored as you’d expect is that his team at Serra in his senior season frankly wasn’t very good. The Padres were only 4-6 and the competition in the West Catholic Athletic League (like it still is) was difficult. Let’s just say there were no Lynn Swanns running around catching passes from Brady that year at Frietas Field.
When you hear former Cal coach Jeff Tedford describe what he thought when watching Rodgers throw as a freshman at Butte College, it seems to me that if Rodgers had come to an Elite 11 tryout or something similar prior to his senior year at Pleasant Valley-Chico in 2001 that he would have been discovered and launched as a major prospect. Those types of camps and combines just weren’t as prevalent as they are today.
Rodgers was the best quarterback in the CIF Northern Section in his senior year and was written up twice that I can recall as a State Stat Star of the Week. Still, he didn’t pass for more than 2,000 yards and was overlooked for post-season honors outside of the section partly because that happens a lot (and still does) for players from that part of the state.
After one season at Butte College, Rodgers was quickly recruited by the Golden Bears. One year later, he was starting and on his way. His perseverance after the NFL Draft in 2005 when he slid down so far and then waiting for Brett Favre to move along in Green Bay also is a great lesson for any young athlete.
We probably know more about Colin’s high school years at Pitman of Turlock than Brady or Rodgers because his father, Rick, sent in e-mailed updates about his son and we traded e-mails several times.
The last e-mail from the Kaepernicks after Colin graduated from high school in 2006 included a lot of highlights many people forget about Colin. For one, his academics, which were strong enough so that he was accepted to Harvard and Columbia and was named as the CIF Sac-Joaquin Section A. Dale Lackey Scholar Athlete of the Year.
I can remember one email exchange in the spring of 2005 in which Colin’s dad was asking about the Nike camp, which was to be held that year at Stanford. Kaepernick, a junior at the time, went to Stanford on that day and his arm strength shined through. He was very thin, though, and there were questions whether he could take the pounding of a college football season. Still, I think that camp is where the University of Nevada coaches saw him for the first time. They ended up as the only ones who would later offer him to play the quarterback position.
Our last evaluation of Kaepernick was as a finalist to be the Division II State Athlete of the Year. His football accolades were solid, but Pitman in 2005 also had standout running back Anthony Harding (scholarship to Fresno State) and it was more of a running offense. With basketball (Colin averaged 19 points per game) and baseball (he led Pitman to the SJS Div. I finals), his athlete of the year credentials were top five to top seven in the state.
In a tough call, however, we gave the honor for 2005-06 (ironically as it seems now) to Richard Sherman from Dominguez-Compton. Sherman, who is now a star cornerback for the Seattle Seahawks and may be trying to knock down Kaepernick’s passes for many years to come, was a 50-foot CIF state champ in the triple jump in addition to being all-state in football.
Mark Tennis is the co-founder of Cal-Hi Sports, and publisher of CalHiSports.com. Cal-Hi Sports is the authority in state rankings for football, basketball, baseball and softball, as well as the recognized state record keeper for all high school sports. Contact him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter, @CalHiSports.
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