Rodgers copes with lost year

By David Lance

Steve Rodgers is tied with quarterback Stacey McKinney and wide receiver Vaurice Patterson for the NIU football team lead in touchdowns (2).

The junior tailback has a 46-yard run to his credit (second longest on the team), and is averaging 12.9 yards a carry.

Too bad for NIU he hasn’t played in a game since Sept. 14.

That’s when Rodgers’ troubles began. On an 18-yard TD run against Arkansas State, he pulled his right hamstring as he was crossing into the end zone.

Rodgers tried to practice two weeks later, but during passing drills, he tore the still-sore tendon. Rodgers will miss the remainder of the season.

The team will apply for a hardship waiver, which would allow Rodgers to have two more years of eligibility left.

“We’ve missed him,” NIU head coach Charlie Sadler said. “We miss the speed. Speed in that position can be the difference between a 5-yard gain or a 50-yard gain. He’s a guy we think is one of our very good players.”

Rodgers said this is the first time he’s ever had a problem with a hamstring. “That’s why I can’t believe it,” Rodgers said.

Rodgers said the year has been a total loss for him “for the simple fact I’m used to being involved in athletics.

“The first two weeks were the hardest. Florida, Iowa, those games were painful. Every time I’ve tried to come back, my leg wouldn’t cooperate.

“If I had a chance to play, I’d be out there playing. It’s just not possible. I’m not going to play when I’m 75 percent, when someone 100 percent could do better.”

To pass time, Rodgers works on restoring his hamstring to its full strength.

“I still go to practice,” Rodgers said. “I rehabilitate my hamstring.”

odgers also goes to his team’s games. There, Rodgers gives the tailbacks advice.

“It’s like I’m the second coach,” Rodgers said.

odgers’ new job still doesn’t fill the void created by his injury.

“It’s very disappointing,” Rodgers said. “From a team standpoint, they could use me at tailback. I’m not there to give them experience.

“I’ll be back. I hope to play tailback and wide receiver next year. I want to help the team as best I can.”