Many assumed that Knoxville native Amari Rodgers would have chosen his hometown Volunteers and the University of Tennessee, alma mater of his father, Tee Martin. Others thought he would land at the University of Southern California, where his father is the offensive coordinator and wide receivers coach. When asked why Rodgers chose Clemson in the end, he replied, “When I was a kid, I saw Clemson play and I was like, ‘if I get offered by Clemson, I’m going to play there.’” Rodgers also liked the fact that Coach Swinney graduates his players—he said that was a big part of his decision. The thing many people don’t know about one of Clemson’s favorite receivers is that Rodgers actually was committed to Southern Cal before he changed his mind and decided to be a Tiger. When Amari was a junior in high school, he committed to the Trojans. Six months later, after receiving an offer from Clemson, Rodgers decommitted. He chose Clemson in the end because it was his dream to play here since he was little.
Although Rodgers’s father is on the other side of the country taking care of Trojan business, they keep in contact regularly. The two talk multiple times throughout the week to see how practice is going, and they talk before games to wish each other good luck. They also talk after games and practices to evaluate performances. Tee Martin wore a different shade of orange, as the starting QB for the Tennessee Volunteers the year after Peyton Manning left for the NFL, and Martin led the Vols to their most recent national championship in 1998. Amari said that his dad brings up his national title often, and it motivates him to get one for himself. Amari was a senior in high school when the Tigers won the national championship two years ago, but he and the Tigers are well on their way to fulfilling that dream, off to a 6-0 start in 2018, twenty years removed from his dad’s title run. Incidentally, Amari would like Clemson fans to know that, contrary to popular belief, his close friend and teammate, Tee Higgins, was actually not named after his father. It’s just an interesting coincidence. Rodgers was instrumental in his fellow Tennessean’s decision to join him in Tiger Town.
With 341 total receiving yards and 40 catches so far in his young career, sophomore WR Amari Rodgers is an electric play-maker on the football field. When he’s not playing football, he’s watching Netflix, playing Madden with his favorite team, the Atlanta Falcons, or working hard in the weight room. During the season (and off-season), his favorite thing to work on is core strength and speed. He told me that his best attribute on and off the field is his hard work and the way he pushes himself. When I asked him who his favorite NFL wide receiver is, he was quick to say Jarvis Landry for the Cleveland Browns. “He’s tough,” Amari said, “He’s my size, too. I compare myself to people that are my size.”
After Clemson, Rodgers plans on entering the NFL. Aside from his football aspirations, Rodgers wants to become a sports broadcaster. He wants to work on broadcasts like ESPN College Gameday and continue staying in touch with college football and football in general. As a sports communications major, Clemson University is helping him fulfill his career goals outside of playing in the NFL.
Rodgers has more than enjoyed his time here at Clemson. His high school habits, rituals and memories have evolved into college ones. In high school, Rodgers wore church socks under his game socks for good luck. He grew out of the superstition—literally and figuratively—when he got to Clemson because the Tigers’ cleats are made by Nike, whereas his high school cleats were Adidas. He has adopted new rituals in college, such as chewing gum during Tiger Walk and warmups. Running onto the field to win a state championship as a junior in high school turned into running down The Hill for the first time last year, in hopes up winning a national championship in college. The biggest change from high school has been the rigors of balancing academics and athletics in college. Rodgers says managing the class work and football simultaneously is challenging, but he is doing fine.
Amari plans to keep using his quick feet and soft hands to his advantage. He believes that his prior experience on punt returns in high school gave him the vision to react more quickly to defenders coming at him and getting in his face, and that served him well at the wide receiver and running back positions. As Rodgers continues to be a star on punt returns—now starting for the Tigers—he is very humble and gives credit to all of his teammates on special teams when asked about his success. He has also mentioned that Ray-Ray McCloud—the Tigers’ former starting punt returner, who is now in the NFL—helped prepare him for taking over the reigns last year. Amari says his biggest improvements since last year are his strength, confidence and ability to learn the playbook, but he looks forward to improving all aspects of his game as the season continues. And perhaps, like his father, he will one day wear a national championship ring on his finger.
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