FOXBOROUGH — A Worcester native who starred in football and basketball at St. John’s of Shrewsbury before going on to play college football at Cal, Richard Rodgers took an unconventional route to the National Football League, going from East to West to the Frozen Tundra.
Green Bay hopes he establishes a connection with fellow Cal alumnus Aaron Rodgers (no relation) after the Packers selected the 6-foot-4-inch, 257-pound tight end 98th overall Friday night with a compensatory pick in the third round of the NFL Draft.
Green Bay made Rodgers the only New England product to be selected among the top 100 players. He caught 39 passes for 608 yards and a touchdown as a junior last season.
“He has really good hands, catches the football, and he’s a detailed route runner,’’ Packers tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “His understanding of schemes and concepts, he really understands the game.’’
That understanding comes from being the son of a coach, Richard Rodgers Sr., a former Cal football captain who was involved in “The Play’’ in the 1982 Cal-Stanford game. A longtime defensive coordinator at Holy Cross, Rodgers now serves as a special teams coordinator for the Carolina Panthers under another Cal product, Ron Rivera.
Rodgers ran the 40-yard dash in 4.87 seconds and recorded 16 repetitions in the 225-pound bench press. He had to undergo a physical makeover after playing as a 275-pound tight end under former Cal coach Jeff Tedford. When Sony Dykes took over, Rodgers shed 30 pounds to play as a hybrid H-back in the spread attack. Rodgers’s radical change left NFL scouts questioning his blocking ability.
“He is capable of blocking,’’ Fontenot said. “Once he gets a chance to compete. We ask our tight ends to do everything. I think he’s perfectly capable of doing that.’’