UMass CB Isaiah Rodgers excited for NFL Draft

  • University of Massachusetts senior cornerback Isaiah Rodgers takes an interception 58 yards for a touchdown against Akron in the second quarter of the Minutemen’s 37-29 win over the visiting Zips at McGuirk Stadium in Amherst on Sept. 28, 2019. STAFF FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • UMass senior cornerback Isaiah Rodgers, right, tackles Coastal Carolina wide receiver Jeremiah Miller in the second quarter of the Minutemen’s 62-28 loss to the visiting Chanticleers at McGuirk Stadium on Sept. 21, 2019. STAFF FILE PHOTO/KEVIN GUTTING

  • UMass cornerback Isaiah Rodgers (9) runs the ball up the field during an Aug. 30, 2019, game against Rutgers Scarlet Knights in Piscataway, N.J. Rutgers won 48-21. AP File

  • Massachusetts Minutemen cornerback Isaiah Rodgers (9) looks to catch the ball during an NCAA college football game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Friday, Aug. 30, 2019, in Piscataway, N.J. Rutgers won 48-21. (AP Photo/Steve Luciano) Steve Luciano—AP

  • Massachusetts Minutemen cornerback Isaiah Rodgers (9) in coverage during an NCAA college football game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Friday, Aug. 30, 2019, in Piscataway, N.J. Rutgers won 48-21. (AP Photo/Steve Luciano) Steve Luciano—AP

  • Massachusetts Minutemen cornerback Isaiah Rodgers (9) in coverage during an NCAA college football game against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Friday, Aug. 30, 2019, in Piscataway, N.J. Rutgers won 48-21. (AP Photo/Steve Luciano) Steve Luciano—AP

Staff Writer
Published: 4/23/2020 5:10:37 PM
Modified: 4/23/2020 5:10:27 PM

Growing up in Tampa, Florida, Isaiah Rodgers never imagined he would be in the position he is in right now.

According to Rodgers, he was “just a kid running around having fun.”

His favorite NFL team was the San Francisco 49ers and his favorite player was cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, his cousin.

“To see him grind day in and day out and knowing what it took to get there, that’s what makes him my favorite player,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers wore No. 9 because of Peter Warrick, who played wide receiver in the late 1990s for his favorite college team, Florida State.

With all the NFL news hitting Tampa lately, Rodgers wants to make some of his. The UMass cornerback and special teams ace is hoping to hear his named called during the NFL Draft.

The draft began on Thursday night with the first round, and rounds two and three follow tonight at 7 p.m. Rounds four through seven will start at noon on Saturday.

ABC, ESPN and the NFL Network are airing the draft, which is being held at ESPN in Bristol, Connecticut. The draft was scheduled to be held in Las Vegas, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the NFL will hold it virtually.

“I see myself (getting picked), someone pulling the trigger,” Rodgers said.

The process leading into the draft has been unusual because of the pandemic.

The Minutemen closed the season with a 56-24 loss to BYU on Nov. 23. Rodgers graduated the next month, then headed to Atlanta at the start of the new year to train at STACK Sports Performance & Therapy.

When facilities began to close, Rodgers packed up and returned home to Tampa.

“It’s been a bumpy road but it’s pretty exciting,” Rodgers said. “I’ve continued to train and control what I can control on my end. I have an in-home gym at my cousin’s house so I’ve been there, go at it five days a week. It’s been a pretty exciting journey.”

The biggest challenge has been meeting with NFL scouts, coaches and front office personnel. Typically, players will have pro days with large groups of other players in front of dozens of NFL organizations. Because of the pandemic, everything has been communicated virtually.

“It’s been strange and difficult dealing with virtual conversations with teams,” Rodgers said. “You’re waiting for this moment to travel and meet with teams and coaches. To know you have to do it now virtually is kind of shocking and difficult at the same time. You really can’t control it so you get through the days.”

Rodgers participated in a virtually pro day at The Trench Academy in Tampa. It was hosted by former Tennessee Titans scout Richard Shelton.

“I felt I competed at a high level,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers weighed in at 174.2 pounds and measured just under 5-foot-11. He hit 40 inches on his third attempt at the vertical jump, and finished the three-cone drill in 6.9 seconds and the 40-yard dash in 4.28 seconds.

Rodgers excelled for UMass during his four-year career. As a senior, he finished with 42 tackles, four interceptions, 10 pass breakups, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery over 12 games.

As the primary kick returner, Rodgers brought back 53 kicks for 1,295 yards, both of which ranked No. 1 among all FBS players during the 2019 season.

Rodgers was named the kicker returner on Pro Football Focus’ All-American First Team.

Rodgers said his size has been the driving force in his career.

“Being underrated throughout my entire life and continuing to prove people wrong,” he said.

Rodgers said he has been in contact with former UMass players James Ihedigbo, Marquis Young and Victor Cruz. Ihedigbo and Cruz spent many seasons in the NFL, while Young went through the draft process last year. They have helped motivate Rodgers.

Also motivating Rodgers is what is happening with his hometown. In addition to Tom Brady and Rob Gronkowski joining the Buccaneers, Tampa is scheduled to host the Super Bowl in 2021.

“I just want to do as much as I can to give back to this area,” Rodgers said. “To be able to see what’s all going on right now and knowing that my time is coming, it makes me speechless right now.”

Mike Moran can be reached at mmoran@gazettenet.com. Follow on Twitter @mikemoranDHG.

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