INDIANAPOLIS — Standing out on special teams is one of the best ways for young players to earn roster spots in the NFL.
Tampa-native Isaiah Rodgers found that out last season as a rookie with the Indianapolis Colts. Drafted in the sixth round out of UMass, Rodgers, a defensive back, quickly made an impact as a kick returner. The highlight of his first NFL season came courtesy of a 101-yard kickoff return touchdown against Cleveland.
"A lot of guys come from colleges where they don’t have to play special teams," Rodgers said via Zoom chat. "I would just tell a lot of guys coming into the league now 'You might want to take this a lot more serious than you probably ever did in your life.' It can keep you in the league for a very long time."
Rodgers wants to see more playing time this season, and he knows what he has to do to earn it.
"I think the main thing right now is just continue to do my job. Continue to be on time, be where I need to be," the Blake High School graduate said. "Just doing everything the coaches ask for. Running to the ball, making plays on the ball. I think if I continue to do that, year two will be a lot better than year one was."
Rodgers and the rest of the 2020 class missed out on a lot of things they would've experienced before the pandemic. One of the biggest things for players is getting to play in front of more fans in 2021.
"I think that plays a factor into the game. Having the fans back," Rodgers added. "You know football’s football. If it’s preseason or regular season, I just go into every game the same. I think the main thing right now is just having the fans back."
This is the first year that NFL teams will play 17 regular-season games. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers "extra" game is November 28 at Indianapolis. Rodgers says he's expecting company, and the football game won't be the only reason to celebrate.
"My entire family already got an Air B&B up here," Rodgers grinned. "Everyone can’t come to the game because tickets are almost already sold out. So the whole entire family’s coming up. That’s also my mom’s birthday, so we’re having a birthday up there. We’re all just going to have a good time and come out with a 'W' you know."
The Colts open their regular season on September 12 when they host the Seattle Seahawks.