As Jake Rodgers figures it, he’ll be playing football on Sundays because he paid attention the rest of the week.
Five years ago, Rodgers was playing tight end at Shadle Park High School. Five days ago, he was drafted by the Atlanta Falcons as an offensive lineman.
For that Rodgers can thank not only his natural talents, but the teachable moments provided by his position coaches at Washington State and Eastern Washington.
From the Cougars’ Steve Morton, he learned about the intricacies of line play “and what it means to play college football.” Thanks to the Eagles’ Aaron Best, he expanded his game and “learned to play hard all the time and having some nastiness.”
The reward is a chance at the big time, though nothing was certain Saturday afternoon as the draft entered its seventh and final round. Surrounded by friends, family and teammates at his mother’s home in Spokane, Rodgers admitted being “down in the dumps a little bit” Saturday afternoon.
Several NFL teams who’d shown interest all spring had called to say he was off their draft boards.
“I was kind of upset,” said Rogers, who was projected to go late in the draft – or not at all.
Finally the 6-foot-6, 320-pound Rodgers was picked early in the seventh round by Atlanta – a surprise, considering he had barely spoken with the Falcons. Meanwhile, the club had contacted Rodgers’ former coaches, and liked what they heard.
“They spoke highly enough of me to spark their (the Falcons’) interest, and that was the day before the draft,” said Rodgers, who left Thursday for a three-day mini-camp in Atlanta.
In the months preceding the draft, Rodgers had mostly worked out on his own but visited several teams. He was praised by NFL experts for his natural ability in blocking on the edge, his good hands and ability to work combo blocks. His versatility – Rodgers also played guard in college – was another plus.
Rodgers was an FCS All-American and helped the Eagles finish first in the FCS in scoring offense (44.1 per game) and first downs (361 total), second in passing efficiency (163.52), third in total offense (513.4) and second in passing offense (328.2).
Rodgers had the highest game grade on the EWU line during the regular season at 93 percent and led the team in knockdown blocks with 55. He started 18 games in two seasons at Eastern, and another 12 at Washington State in 2012.
Rodgers, the 225th overall draft selection, is the first EWU player drafted since 2012, when safety Matt Johnson was picked in the fourth round by the Dallas Cowboys.
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