Rodgers Fulfilling a Dream

Na'Ty Rodgers had just started high school, but even then he had a vision of what he wanted to do on the football field, where he wanted to go. And on Friday, January 4 at 5 p.m. at Tropicana Field in St. Petersburg, Florida, Rodgers will fulfill that vision, that dream that took root years earlier.

"I've always wanted to commit at the Under Armour game or Army game or some type of major All-Star game," Rodgers told this week. "Just growing in the ninth grade turning on the TV and you're done with you're all said and done with your freshman and JV football and you're sitting in front of the TV and watching all these high school kids…dang! I want to do that one day.

"The fact that a dream I had in the ninth grade turned into a goal and a mindset and then being able to actually accomplish that - it's going to mean a lot more than just picking your college."

It shouldn't be a surprise the 6-foot-4, 285-pound offensive lineman from McDonough High School in Pomfret, Md. has achieved such a lofty goal; Division-1 football is in his blood. His father Tyrone originally committed to Oklahoma to play football but then transferred to Washington after the Sooners were embroiled in a recruiting scandal that he was not a part of. All Rodgers did was play alongside Steve Emtman on the 1991 National Championship team, arguably the best Washington defensive line of all time. Tyrone even played pro ball with the Seattle Seahawks for a spell.

Now it's time for Na'Ty to live the life his father lived back in his college days - but Tyrone isn't going to try and be one of those Dads that pushes his son one way or another based on perceived mistakes made. "Actually he's giving me the advice of not giving me advice," the younger Rodgers said with a chuckle. "When I go to Washington he's nowhere to be found. He doesn't want to be involved in that aspect of the recruiting. He'll be involved…he wants me to tell him why I want to go somewhere, why I like this place, why I don't…but at the same time he wants me to make my decision based off of me. He doesn't want me to get recruited any differently just because of him. When I go to Washington…the last time I went to Washington he was talking to his old buddies that are still there from his old team. He wants me to go through the recruiting process the same way he did; kind of blind but he's also going to give me little tips and things here and there along the way."

Rodgers is literally en route to Seattle right now, getting set to start his his official visit Thursday night. "I was going to go next weekend, but a lot of other guys that I've known from camps and seeing them around football, the high school football world…they are going, so it should be fun to go with some guys that I've been there before," he said.

One of those players will be UW commit Demorea Stringfellow, a player he got a chance to hang out with a lot back in June when Stringfellow and Rancho Verde teammate Poasi Moala both verbally committed to the Huskies during Washington's Rising Stars camp. Moala has since de-committed and pledged his future to UCLA. "Being there and hanging out with Poasi and Stringfellow…those two are cool guys," Rodgers said. "I know Poasi is going to UCLA and everything, but those are two cool guys. They are pretty much best friends. For them to be cool with me based on really the first day up there and then being up there with crazy Elijah (laughs)…it was just a good time. It really was."

Rodgers has found a friend in Stringfellow despite the 2800 miles that separates the two. "Just to be able to sit down and have a regular conversation with a dude who is going through the same things you're going through or possibly even more of what you're going through…the recruiting process is a fun process, it really is," he said. "Not everybody is blessed enough to go through the process. But just talking to the guys…how's your football team? What kind of field do you have? What's your colors? What's your mascot? Just talking about regular things, things that normal kids would talk about with the other guys. It just means a lot.

"Just to be able to text Stringfellow and say, 'Hey, what's up man? How is everything going?' Just having a regular conversation…those are friends you keep for a very long time regardless. Let's say I went to Washington State and he goes to Washington and we played against each other we'd still have that contact. That Apple Cup might be weird (laughs) but you would still have that contact, still have that hope that that person does well so they can have as long a career as they can have."

Washington Linebackers Coach Peter Sirmon came by the Rodgers home earlier this week and according to Na'Ty UW Head Coach Steve Sarkisian has a good relationship with his mother. "Just talking to the coaching staff, they are always fired up," Rodgers said. "They are fired up on a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday…Game Day. It doesn't really matter; they are always fired up and are ready to go. It's always good to be able to feel that in a coach's voice. A lot of coaches can say it or they can show you a video of them doing a motivational video or something like that, but to actually feel it in their voice every time you talk them - that's always a good thing."

Have the Washington coaches talked to Rodgers about a position along the offensive line? He's currently rated a three-star prospect and the No. 33 guard in the country by "With my size I'm really kind of in the middle between a straight guard and a straight tackle," he said. "If I was 6-7, 6-8 they'd be saying you have to come in and battle for a tackle spot. Now it's based on the fact where personally I can get on the field more, where I can get on the field faster. It really doesn't matter to me whether I'm playing tackle, guard or center because I'm comfortable with it all. It's not going to be a big shock if they ask me to go snap the ball. It really doesn't matter where they put me, I've heard both (tackle and guard). Getting on the field is the most important thing."

Rodgers added that he did get a chance to see Washington play - mostly after the fact. "I watched the Apple Cup and the Oregon game and the LSU game," he said. "I watched those live and recorded others. I like to record a lot of games of the schools I'm looking at. If it's a Sunday and I don't really feel like watching the NFL, I'll watch the games I didn't get a chance to see.

"They had some trouble, but they also had some high points. They beat Stanford; that was probably the biggest win for them this year I think. They have some work, but every team has work to do on something. It's not like you're watching them and it's like, 'Here we go again, they are going to lose.' It's nowhere near anything like that. It's a good program and it's a good team to watch."

After his Washington visit, Rodgers said he'll either visit Maryland or Michigan next weekend. He already visited Oklahoma officially when the Sooner hosted Kansas State back in September. "I took a break from it," Rodgers said when asked about the recruiting process. "After having taken an official visit during the season, I realized I should take my time and let my senior season happen, let me have a little bit of time for me and my team to have a little bit of fun and then get serious after the season and start thinking about my decision and taking these visits and whatnot.

"It's such a long process…you think about how, in a matter of a month, so many guys are going to be making decisions. But you've got coaches calling you every day for the next couple of weeks…it's a long process, a long month. I can't really say where I'm at right now because just when you think you're thinking about going one place then wait a minute…I see this school…it's hard, but I think at the end my heart, God, and my family will help me with my decision."

After these next couple days in the Emerald City, Rodgers will have seen everything about UW that he needs to see. "I've seen Washington, but it really wasn't…I'm not going to say it was on a recruiting basis, but it wasn't on a recruiting basis," he said. "It was more like me going out there strictly business; I was going out there to go against some guys and do a camp. Afterwards it was fun and everything, but I never really took a look at the campus or really took a look at the academics. This time it's really about taking a look at the University of Washington regardless of football. I'm looking at the university itself and if I could see myself living there for the next four or five years and then potentially getting on the field and playing some football there."

Does he have specific questions to ask the coaches and academic advisors at UW while on his visit? "It's weird, but it's not really questions; it's more of a feeling," Rodgers said. "With recruiting, you get a feeling when you go to a certain school, you get a feeling when you step on the football field…it's just a certain feeling. To go to a place and get a feeing…talking to the academic people and walking around the town where no one knows who you are, getting that type of feeling - just experiencing everything…you get a certain feeling. If you really get that feeling you want to be there, it's hard to say this, this and this makes me want to go there. Sometimes it's very easy, but other times I just like it. There's no reason why or why not; I just like it."

Rodgers said there's one school so far that has had 'it'; South Carolina. But he admits there's something to a West Coast school that appeals to him, especially from the point of view of family. "Playing in front of a lot of my family and everything, that's going to always be appealing to an athlete," he said. "Playing maybe one or two games in Cali, playing against USC every year, playing maybe at Arizona or Arizona State where my brother is at, it seems like it could be a really cool deal and be helpful in my college career being able to have my family there and everything. That's really the only thing about the east coast schools; out here it's just me and my Mother and my Stepfather. To be able to go out to the west coast possibly and play some ball out there - it sounds really nice."

And then on January 4th Rodgers will be faced with that inevitable choice. It's hard to say whether or not he'll get pulled in a number of different directions; Stringfellow will most likely be in his ear talking about UW to the end.

"I have some hometown dudes that I'm really cool with that are committed to Maryland that are going there," Rodgers said of the game. "I have some dudes from South Carolina that are going to the Under Armour game. It's really…everybody is going to be there, so it's not like just one team will be there."

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