He arrived as Aaron Rodgers' younger brother.
Over the last three years, he quietly wrote his own legacy.
Jordan Rodgers has solidified a spot in Vanderbilt history by leading the Commodores to nine wins and finishing with the fourth-most single-season passing yards in school history.
But what he’ll remember most is helping turn around the program.
“It was tough to say that maybe we could go to back-to-back bowl games,” Rodgers said. “If you would have asked me back then, I probably wouldn’t have said we could.”
Rodgers, who is the first Vanderbilt quarterback to start multiple bowl games, has a lot to do with that unprecedented success. He rebounded from an up-and-down debut season to compile the most efficient season by a Vanderbilt quarterback in more than 20 years.
In 2011, he didn’t earn the starting job until midway through the season and struggled to get acclimated with Southeastern Conference play. The junior college transfer was also coming off shoulder surgery, which caused him to miss 2010 season and the ensuing spring drills.
His season ended with a horrid performance in the Liberty Bowl, which caused him to get pulled in the third quarter and left a bitter taste. After a rocky start caused him to get benched three games in, Rodgers rarely faltered. He finished with 15 touchdowns and just five interceptions — the best ratio by a Vanderbilt quarterback since Mike Healy (10 to 1) in 1990. He also threw for 2,539 yards — just six shy of Eric Jones (1988) for third-most. He ranks sixth all-time with 4,081 career passing yards — in just two seasons.
The icing on the cake was his performance in the Music City Bowl. He wasn’t asked to do as much as the Commodores relied heavily on Zac Stacy and the wildcat formation. But Rodgers still completed 16 of 25 passes for 108 yards and two touchdowns.
“Last year, I feel like I didn’t put my team in a position to win, and that was really tough,” Rodgers said. “This year, I did what I was asked to do. I don’t think I played a perfect game, but that is where the play of our defense and offensive line picked up this team and made us so successful.”
Rodgers should take some credit too, especially for hanging in there.
Up 31-17 and trying to pull away, Vanderbilt rolled the dice midway through the fourth quarter. On fourth-and-14, Rodgers uncorked a pass while absorbing a huge shot. The heave was placed where only Jordan Matthews could snag it — exactly at the first-down marker to move the chains.
Rodgers, who climbed off the turf with a bloody and swollen mouth, sealed the win three plays later when he scrambled for a 15-yard touchdown.
“He is as tough as nails,” Matthews said.
He’ll get a chance to show off that resiliency, along with his arm strength, accuracy and mobility, as he will join teammates Trey Wilson and Ryan Seymour in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl on Jan. 19 in Los Angeles.
While he hopes to join his older brother in the NFL, Rodgers has cemented his place in Vanderbilt history.
“Coach [James] Franklin came in and changed the culture,” Rodgers said. “He demanded that we work harder and prepare harder than we have ever prepared before. We did, and once we started seeing results we bought into it. You saw the fruits of that last season, but you really saw it all come together this season.”