Specific instances in an athlete’s life will forever be remembered.
Friday night will be one of those for Amari Rodgers.
The junior wide receiver and his Knoxville Catholic School teammates took down back-to-back-to-back TSSAA Class 4A state champion Fulton in the second round of the playoffs 28-25. Rodgers said the football memory ranks No. 1 for him.
“It’s always awesome beating a three-time state championship team at their home place,” Rodgers told InsideTennessee. “It’s an awesome experience.”
The Falcons (10-2) entered as winners of 16 straight playoff contests.
The Irish (8-4) raced to a 26-point advantage in the first quarter, banging Fulton to the mat early. Rodgers caught an 87-yard touchdown pass over two defenders during that blast of points.
“It was amazing,” Rodgers said. “We came out with momentum, and we thought we would win the game — and we did. Early in the game we were so pumped up to play them here and to be able to beat them at their home and we got a lead.”
Not far from the playing surface stood Tennessee coach Butch Jones for much of the game. Rodgers flashed a smile discussing Jones’ presence as he knew the Vols leader was in attendance.
“It’s awesome,” the Tennessee legacy and Scout three-star prospect said. “It’s always a privilege to see your hometown team’s head coach here to see you play.”
Rodgers verbally committed to USC back on June 25. Rodgers’ father is former Tennessee quarterback and current USC assistant coach Tee Martin. With Steve Sarkisian losing his job as Trojans head coach this season, Martin’s status on staff in Los Angeles is up in the air until a new head coach is named.
“It’s still strong as of now,” Rodgers said of his pledge, “but I’m going to wait until after the season to see what coaching changes they do and see what I’m going to do.”
While a USC is in a holding pattern, Tennessee continues to linger in the back of the three-star’s mind.
“I’m still considering them,” Rodgers said of the Vols. “You know you’ve always got to consider your hometown team. They’re still in the mix.”
Rodgers, who is a Tennessee Titans Class 4A Mr. Football Back of the Year semifinalist, has been an unofficial visitor to Neyland Stadium more than once this fall, including being in house to see the Vols beat South Carolina 27-24.
“They’re doing great,” he said of the Orange & White. “They’re building off a great win after another great win….Later on in the season I think they’ll do great.”
It’s a long way between now and National Signing Day 2017. Rodgers has his eyes affixed on a gold ball as the 5-foot-10, 185-pound junior pass catcher has plans to lead Catholic to the state final in Cookeville. He knows what the Irish must do to win it all.
“Keep going and keep playing smart. Today we played a smart game and got the job done. So, we’ve got to keep that going.”