Rodgers shows he’s all the way back

Rodgers shows he’s all the way back

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Rodgers shows he’s all the way back

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SYRACUSE, N.Y. — It took him a week to get back in the swing of things, but Clemson wide receiver Amari Rodgers showed he is fully healthy on Saturday night at Syracuse and all the way recovered from the ACL injury he suffered on March 23.

After catching a couple of passes for six yards in Clemson’s Week 2 win over Texas A&M, Rodgers erupted for 121 yards receiving and two touchdowns on just four receptions in the top-ranked Tigers’ 41-6 victory against the Orange at Syracuse’s Dome.

“It felt really good,” Rodgers said after the game. “Last week was kind of getting my feet wet, just getting a feel for the game again. Then this week I was comfortable back in my feet playing the game, so I just took advantage of my opportunities.”

Initially not expected to return to game action until late September or early October, Rodgers pushed himself during the rehab process to get back on the field sooner than expected and was able to play in the A&M game at Death Valley on Sept. 7.

Less than six months after tearing his ACL, Rodgers was rewarded for the hard work he put in when he found the end zone less than five minutes into the Syracuse game, hauling in a 16-yard touchdown pass from Trevor Lawrence that gave the Tigers an early 7-0 lead over the Orange at the 10:29 mark of the first quarter.

“It felt great,” Rodgers said. “What I put on the back of my arms – ‘keep faith’ – it just showed that I kept faith through my whole rehab process and I am where I am right now, and it just paid off.”

The biggest play that Rodgers made, though, came in the third quarter with the Tigers leading 17-6.

On third-and-1 from the Clemson 13-yard line, the junior receiver caught a screen pass from Lawrence near the hash marks, got to the edge and took it to the house for an 87-yard touchdown that marked the fourth-longest pass play in Clemson history.

There was question whether Rodgers stepped out of bounds as he raced along the sideline, but after replay review, the call on the field of a touchdown stood.

Syracuse had been hanging around until the Rodgers catch-and-run helped put the game away.

“I was like, ‘Please just let it stand,’” Rodgers said. “My feelings would’ve really been hurt if they’d had called it back. But that’s just a blessing that they let it stand, and it was a great feeling.”

Rodgers also contributed on special teams as a punt returner, something he was glad to do after muffing a punt against Syracuse during the 2018 season that led to a touchdown for the Orange.

The Knoxville, Tennessee, native got the opportunity to return punts after usual punt returner Derion Kendrick sustained an injury.

“I really wasn’t expecting to, but DK went down with a little back-spasms injury, so they put me back there,” Rodgers said. “It felt good just to catch it again because last year I had a pretty bad game versus them with punt returning. So, it felt good to catch everything.”

Rodgers was part of the Clemson team that was upset by Syracuse at the Carrier Dome in 2017, so he was happy to help the Tigers avenge that loss with the win Saturday.

“Of course, we’re always thinking about how we play,” he said. “But in the back of my mind, we always had that loss from two years ago, and we just wanted to come in here and leave no doubt. We played our best game, I feel like, and it showed.”

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