“I was like ‘What? What you mean?’ ” said Rodgers, a 6-foot-5, 280-pound All-Met offensive lineman. “He was like ‘I’m committed. All these [local] dudes are coming, too. Just jump on board.’ . . . It’s hard to say no sometimes, but you’ve got to do what’s best for you.”
At a time when Football Bowl Subdivision programs seem to fill their recruiting classes with unofficial commitments earlier each year, Rodgers has bucked the trend with a measured approach to his recruitment. On the advice of his former NFL lineman father, he narrowed his list of suitors systematically in recent months, trimming to a final three, each of which he has visited on campus at least four times.
Rodgers, rated a four-star recruit by Rivals.com, had planned to announce his college decision on national television during Friday’s Under Armour All-America game in St. Petersburg, Fla., but on Thursday night announced via Twitter that he needed more time to make his choice. He’ll pick from among South Carolina, Maryland and Washington, confident he’s done his homework to find the proper fit.
“Right now, no choice is a bad choice,” said Rodgers, who planned to finalize his decision by Christmas. “Regardless of where I go, everyone is going to support me and everything. This is my first real, actual, big choice I get to make in my life, so [my family] just wants me to take my time and make it worthwhile.”
In seven combined years as a high school head coach at the Pomfret school and in Michigan, McDonough Coach Luke Ethington has never coached a player as widely coveted as Rodgers. He credits a strong family support system for the player’s maturity as he navigated toward a decision.
Rodgers’s father, Tyrone, 43, started his college career at Oklahoma and moved on to Washington when the Sooners were put on probation by the NCAA after the 1988 season, reinforcing the importance of making an informed college pick for the right reasons. The defensive lineman went on to play parts of four NFL seasons and nine years in the Canadian Football League.
The younger Rodgers, 17, lives full-time in Southern Maryland with his mother, Nana Bailey-Thomas, and stepfather, Tommy Thomas, who played college football at New Mexico State. The family set a few ground rules for the recruitment, saying Na’Ty had to make at least three official visits and wait until after his playing season to commit, which turned off a few schools.
Rodgers visits his father, who owns a security company in California, for a month almost every summer. Those stays are no vacation, featuring daily 5 a.m. workouts, often directed by Tyrone’s friend Jackie Slater, the NFL Hall of Fame offensive tackle.