Rodgers proof hard work does pay off

Rodgers proof hard work does pay off

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Rodgers proof hard work does pay off

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This time last year, no one knew what Clemson was going to get from Amari Rodgers or if the Tigers would have him it all in 2019.

The third-year receiver was really in the beginning stages of his rehab after he tore his ACL that March. However, 166 days after surgery, he was on the field and playing for the Tigers in their Week 2 battle against Texas A&M.

It was one of the more amazing turnarounds in Clemson history. In less than six months, Rodgers went from severely injuring his knee to playing in a game. The next week at Syracuse, he had a career-game with 121 yards on four catches, including a nifty 87-yard catch-and-run in the third quarter for a touchdown. He also caught a 16-yard touchdown pass from Trevor Lawrence in the Tigers’ 41-6 victory.

Rodgers’ heart and determination did not go unnoticed. This past Friday, it was announced by the Clemson Athletic Department the rising senior is the recipient of the Brandon Streeter Award, which is presented each year to the student-athlete who overcomes injury to excel on the athletic field. The award is named after former Clemson quarterback and current quarterbacks coach Brandon Streeter, who overcame injury multiple times in his career to lead Clemson to a Peach Bowl berth in 1999.

Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney said Rodgers was “all gas” in the Tigers’ nine spring practices this year. The Knoxville, Tenn., native was even playing without a brace on the formerly injured right knee.

“I feel much freer,” Rodgers said this past spring. “I feel a lot faster, more explosive, because I feel like the brace was extra weight. So now I just feel lighter and I can play more free and I can play fast on every single rep, so it’s definitely an advantage.”

Rodgers finished the 2019 season with 30 receptions for 426 yards and four touchdowns, while also rushing twice for 50 yards and a score and returning 18 punts for 151 yards.

Though he could have turned pro, Rodgers was intent on coming back for his senior year at Clemson and was glad he made the decision to stay.

“I’m excited about coming back,” he said. “When I saw [my old teammates] out there at the [scouting] combine, it just made me more excited to know that I’ll possibly have that opportunity next year. It’s just motivation for me to do well this season and have that opportunity so I can go out there and show the world what I can do.”

Former Clemson linebacker Isaiah Simmons was also honored by the Clemson Athletic Department on Friday. He was named the IPTAY Athlete of the Year, which is given to Clemson’s most outstanding student-athlete based on athletic accomplishments with consideration of character, leadership and academics.

Simmons was Clemson’s first winner of the Butkus Award, the honor presented each year to the top linebacker in college football.

The native of Olathe, Kan., became the sixth unanimous first-team All-American in Clemson history during the 2019 seasons when he was a finalist for the Nagurski, Bednarik and Lott Awards. He was named the ACC Defensive Player of the Year, as he led Clemson’s second ranked team with 107 tackles, 16 tackles for loss and eight sacks. He was the first FBS player with at least 100 tackles, 16 tackles for loss, eight sacks and two interceptions since 2013.

The No. 8 selection of the NFL draft by the Arizona Cardinals last month, Simmons graduated with a degree in sports communications in just three and a half years. He was a co-captain of Clemson’s 2019 team that played in the College Football Playoff National Championship game.

–Clemson Athletic Communications contributed to this story

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