Now gearing up for his third season at Oregon State, junior running back Jacquizz Rodgers has found himself on the short list of Heisman candidates for 2010.
His college career is only at the halfway point and it is impressive: 34 touchdowns scored, a remarkable 107 receptions, plus 2,693 rushing yards. Needless to say, the 5-7, 193-pounder from Richmond, Texas, is on pace to shatter a slew of school and Pac-10 records before he’s done.
Some out there might question the mighty-mite’s Heisman chances–after all, doesn’t the winner usually come from a national power? But Rodgers has been overlooked many times in his football career only to show that, after all, he was made for the spotlight. And besides, the first West Coast Heisman winner was from Oregon State (Terry Baker, ’62). History, take note.
I caught up with Rodgers–the 2008 Pac-10 Offensive Player of the Year and 2-time first-team All-Conference selection–over the phone this week and here’s what he had to say:
What’s been going on with you this summer?
The team is here doing summer workouts. I’ve been putting in extra drill work with my brother (James). We want to do as much as we can to be on point, so we’ve been training with our uncle (Michael Lewis, safety for the 49ers).
How is it hanging out in Oregon for the summer as opposed to being back home in Texas?
It’s slower in Corvallis. It’s safe. You can walk around and not worry about things. You can focus on school and football and not find ways to get in trouble.
Obviously, your brother coming to Oregon State a year before you was a huge factor, but what was it about Oregon State that appealed to you during the recruiting process?
I liked Coach Riley a lot. And I was looking for a chance to play early. Yvenson Bernard was the back before me and he had graduated, so I saw an opportunity.
What other schools were interested?
Baylor, Arizona, Northwestern, UTEP, SMU…and then Boston College came on late. But Oregon State ended up being my only visit.
Your credentials were amazing in high school (8,246 rushing yards, 135 touchdowns in only three seasons), but did it surprise you how quickly you made an impact for the Beavers?
Coming in, I didn’t really expect to have a huge role. They saw me as being a third-down back for the most part. But in the first game, I got 14 carries and that surprised me. It built my confidence a lot.
So at what point did you realize that you could make it as this level?
Probably the Penn State game [game 2 of his freshman year]. I had 99 yards and a couple touchdowns. But then a couple weeks later I had the big breakout against USC. That was my ‘Welcome to College Football’ moment. Having success against a program like USC was a big thing.
Now, after all that has come about in your career, how does it feel to be talked about for the Heisman?
I had never thought of it. It was like a dream, really. I still can’t believe it. But for me the focus is on performing and helping the team. I try not to worry about awards.
How has your life changed since the Heisman talk has heated up?
There are more interviews, for sure. The media relations people here are pushing for more exposure. But I’m a humble person and I try not to let it get to my head. If you get too settled and comfortable, you don’t get better.
Who are some of the backs you compare yourself to, or try to emulate?
I see myself as a Ray Rice, or as a Barry Sanders. Guys who run with power and make you miss.
What other backs in college football do you like to watch?
I like Noel Devine and Ryan Williams.
What are doing to improve your game?
I’m working on reading defenses more. I try to learn every detail of every play, not just for myself but to see what others have to do. Like what each of the linemen have as an assignment on each play. I also want to work on being a better blocker.
If you could snap your fingers and improve something about your game, what would it be?
I’d make myself faster. I did run some track in high school, but only on the relays, never in the individual races.
Are you and your brother, James, competitive?
For sure. He’s a little faster, I’ll give him that. We mostly compete in video games. When we were little, we used to actually fight each other, bare knuckles.
Is it going to be weird not playing with your brother next year? Or do you plan on joining him by going to the next level after this season?
That’s not even a consideration. We are just thinking about getting to the Rose Bowl and sending him out on a good note.
What about your personal and team goals for this year?
My personal goals are to get at least 1,600 yards and for the team it’s to get to the Rose Bowl.
What do you like to do in your spare time?
I like to sit on the computer and network. I like to go to the mall and shop. I have a big shoe collection….about 90 pairs of Air Jordans.
How did that hobby come about?
I got my first pair during my freshman year of high school when my mom bought some for me and I just got into it. Now I have a different color pair for every outfit I wear.
Sounds like you might have a second career ahead of you in the fashion industry…