For the second year in a row, no Cal football player heard his name called in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft. But two former Bears can rest easy knowing they have a home in the National Football League after Richard Rodgers and Khairi Fortt were taken Friday and Saturday, respectively, in the 2014 NFL Draft.
Rodgers, a tight end who converted to a wide receiver last season, was the first Bear off the board. The Green Bay Packers took him in the third round with the 98th overall pick in the draft. Rodgers will join another former Cal player by the name of Rodgers in Green Bay — 2011 league MVP Aaron Rodgers.
“I really had no idea,” Rodgers said in a conference call. “You don’t really know that much going into the draft other than crazy things happen. I had no idea, and I was just as surprised as anyone else.”
Rodgers caught 59 passes for 896 yards in his career at Cal, catching one touchdown each in 2012 and 2013. Rodgers will most likely return to playing at tight end in Green Bay, telling ESPN he hopes to get his playing weight up to 265 pounds for the NFL.
Fortt was the next former Cal player off the board when the New Orleans Saints selected him in the fourth round with the 126th overall pick. The 6-foot-2, 240-pound linebacker recorded 64 tackles last season with Cal, including 3.5 for a loss, before missing the final three games of the season due to a bicep injury. Fortt previously played for Penn State in 2010 and 2011 before transferring to Cal.
“I had been watching the first, second, third and all the way until near the end of the fourth rounds, and I didn’t go in the first 20 picks (of the fourth round),” Fortt said in a conference call. “I was level-headed but a little down about it, but right now, I just can’t be more happy.”
Fortt will join Cameron Jordan, who played for the Bears from 2007 through 2010, in New Orleans. Jordan, who made the Pro Bowl in 2013, actually hosted Fortt when Fortt was being recruited out of high school. Fortt, however, chose Penn State over Cal before his decision to transfer.
“It’s just kind of ironic how we ended up at the same place again,” Fortt said.
Among the biggest names not drafted was defensive tackle Deandre Coleman. The senior captain registered 40 tackles and 2.5 sacks last year for the Bears, and NFL.com listed the 6-foot-5, 315-pound tackle as a likely second- or third-round pick. After being passed up in the seven-round draft, Coleman signed a contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars shortly after the draft concluded.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that former Cal football players Brendan Bigelow, Vincenzo D’Amato, Chris McCain and Viliami Moala signed as undrafted free-agents with Tampa Bay, Green Bay, Miami and Baltimore respectively. In fact, the signings have not yet been confirmed.