It's been a long road for Rodney Giles to get to University of Arkansas and he's still not there yet, but he now expects to arrive in January of 2006 and be ready to make an impact right away.
Of course, a 6-3, 240-pound defensive end with 4.4 speed would make an impact just about anywhere.
"I will be a Razorback," Giles said. "And when I become a Razorback I'm coming to get things done in a hurry. It's been a long process, but I can see the end of it now and I'm very excited about putting that Arkansas jersey on."
Giles, a former Hot Springs prep standout who had 18 sacks among the 122 tackles he racked up his senior season, signed with Arkansas instead of LSU and Auburn in the 2003 recruiting class.
But he ended up at Hargrave Military School to finish up some academic obligations.
He appeared all set to land at Arkansas once again in January of 2004, but another academic snafu involving the NCAA Clearing House sent him to Northeaster Oklahoma A&M Junior College, where he just finished a banner freshman season.
"It took him a semester to get over not being able to go to Arkansas right away, but he's done real well this fall," Patterson said. "It just took him awhile to get acclimated, but he has done fine since. I know he can't wait to get to Arkansas. He should have no problems being out of here by December of 2005."
The Golden Norsemen ended the 2004 campaign with a 4-5 mark - it's first losing season in 73 years - but NEO head coach Steve Patterson said Giles was one of the team's brightest stars during the season.
He had nearly 50 tackles with 4 sacks, another three tackles for lost yardage, caused one fumble and recovered another.
"He's had a great season for us as he has gotten acclimated to playing at this level," Patterson said. "That 4.4 speed for a guy his size is just amazing and he's always harassing the quarterback. He's just so fast."
Giles, who had so many big plays for Hot Springs in 2002 that he racked up 202 yards in lost yardage, will arrive at Arkansas and be a 21-year-old junior during the 2006 season with two years to play.
That will be three years later than he intended to get to Fayetteville, but he considers himself a better man because of the journey.
"I could have either gotten down and given up or just strengthened my resolve to be a better man and a better football player," Giles said. "I chose the right way."
Giles fully expected to be playing for Arkansas this season until early in December as he was getting ready to move from Hargrave Military Academy in Chatham, Va., to Fayetteville.
"It was stressful because I found out about two weeks after I got my test results back," Giles said. "They told me I needed one thing and then came back and said I needed another. I looked at it as disappointing at first, but picked myself up off the floor and went on from there."
The military life at Hargrave - including 6 a.m. wake-up calls and marches every day - was something totally different than Giles had ever experienced.
"It's a whole new life, but it prepares you for college life as far as school, studying and also learning how to study for a test the night before a game and stuff like that," Giles said. "It was a great experience for me and I just took it as a blessing."
He has now seen two levels of play, that of Hargrave's schedule which played a lot of junior college and NCAA school's junior varsity squads and now playing junior colleges in Oklahoma and Texas with NEO.
"The level of play is the same, but Hargrave is more discipline and getting you ready to become a man along with playing football," Giles said. "NEO has one of the best programs there is and has a lot of great players from around the country. It is a good place to be and I have learned a lot about tradition and teamwork. I fit in perfectly."
Giles's strength is his speed and pass rush, but Patterson feels his run defense will be just as good once he leaves NEO for Arkansas.
"We expect he will be 250, maybe 260 by next fall," Patterson said. "I think he needs to get a little bit bigger like that so he can play the run better. But when he is out there on the edge, he is hard to block."
Giles is adamant about adding the bulk without losing a step.
"I am trying to put on about 20 more pounds and keep my speed the same," Giles said. "I'll add some strength and work on my technique a little better and I'll be good to go at Arkansas. Like I said, I can't get there soon enough."
Giles' Long Road
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