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Unique homecoming for Rodgers

HOUSTON -- For Na’Ty Rodgers, it was almost like he remembered.

The University of Houston product was back in his former home stadium, but unlike when he was a player for the Cougars, he was on the visitor’s sideline. And, he wasn’t wearing a red uniform.

“Man, getting back on this field is really nostalgic,” he said. “All the old feelings and emotions come back a little bit. This is my first time being on the away side, and my first time not wearing red in here, so it feels a little weird, but it’s definitely a great feeling to be back here where I got some work done before.”

But while it was both familiar and unfamiliar at the same time, it proved to be a memorable experience as he played in the Seattle Dragons’ first-ever scrimmage against the Tampa Bay Vipers on Wednesday, a moment as familiar as it was new.

“I’m just so blessed for the opportunity they’ve given all of us,” he said. “Just to be able to be here and start something new is ground-breaking. It’s something a lot of people wish they could do.

“The first year of anything is always going to be a little bumpy, a little rocky, but it’s really going to be something exciting to watch, something exciting to build. I’m happy to be here.”

For Rodgers, the familiar, unfamiliar feeling also extends to his new home in Seattle. He was born there. But he didn’t live there long.

“I never got to live there too much,” he said. “For me, it feels kind of like a chapter I really didn’t get to remember too well, because I was so young.”

While he didn’t grow up in Seattle, the Rodgers family name is steeped in local football traditions with his father, Tyrone, a member of the University of Washington’s 1991 national championship team.

When  was in high school, the younger Rodgers was recruited by Washington, but the 6-foot-5 tackle decided to forge his own path.

“My dad won a Rose Bowl and a national championship,” Rodgers said. “I just didn’t feel like I could get that done at the time, so I didn’t want to put myself in the second seat right there. I wanted to go and do my own thing.”

Now in Seattle as a professional football player, it feels like the right time for Rodgers to have a familiar, but unfamiliar homecoming.

“It definitely feels good to go there and have my own legacy, not really follow in my father’s footsteps,” Rodgers said. “I’m definitely excited to be in the city.”

Rodgers’ connection to his father starts with his name. It is the combination of names of both his parents Nana -- his mother -- and Tyrone separated by an apostrophe: Na’Ty. The connection to Tyrone continues through their love of football and the work ethic Rodgers learned when he was young.

“You don’t grow up in a household like that and not get a great work ethic,” he said. “I remember in the sixth grade working out at 4:30 a.m. with my dad, my brother and my cousin.”

Those are memories Rodgers still holds close.

“You don’t really get those times back, but the memories last forever,” he said.

When asked if Tyrone ever shared stories about the 1991 season, Rodgers said the one thing that has always impressed him about the players he’s met is their humility.

“You talk about it a little bit, but all of those guys are pretty humble about the situation,” Rodgers said. “They came to work every day and worked hard. That’s how they got the job done. It wasn’t really anything crazy.”

The one thing Rodgers does remember hearing is a story about how every player on defense had to have abs, so they looked good with their jerseys tucked under their pads.  

“To play on the defense, you had to have abs,” he said. “All starting 11. They wanted to cut their jerseys. I thought that was pretty unique.”

But while it’s nice to look back, Rodgers was excited with the way his current teammates played against the Vipers.

“Today was exciting just to get out here with the guys you’ve been practicing with for so long,” he said. “You get to see them in their actual game form, so you get trust with them and trust in yourself that you know what to do. I’m showing my teammates I can do exactly what I need to do and that’s what I wanted to get done today.”

So, how did the Dragons’ offensive line look?

“Our O-line looks great,” he said. “We look amazing. We’re ready to knock people off the ball. We’re ready to move some people against their will. That’s our job description.”