SHREWSBURY, Mass. -- The football spiraled through the air as long as a punt normally would then hit the grass and made a large thud. It bounced back above a player’s head as he looked at the spot where the ball hit, and then counted back the yard marks to its origin.
"78 yards!" he shouted, to the handful of players left after practice.
Richard Rodgers laughed, smiled and looked back at the face of his St. John’s starting quarterback Dan Light. Light shrugged his shoulders and then playfully poked fun at his tight end because he knew he was beaten.
The competition was for bragging rights, but Rodgers was not going to lose.
That was the mentality that was passed down to him at St. John’s over the past three years. That is the mentality that he wants to pass down.
"When you’re a freshman, sophomore or junior you look up to kids and wonder when you’re going to be in those senior’s shoes," said Rodgers. "Now is that time for us and we need to step up, be leaders for the younger kids and leave our own legacy as a class."
Rodgers, a 6-foot-4, 230-pound wide receiver, committed to the University of California at Berkeley to play football in the fall of 2011. He has been clocked with a 4.6-second 40-yard dash time but because of his size, will play tight end in college.
However, the most impressive aspect about Rodgers is noticed off the field.
If you ask St. John’s head coach John Andreoli about Rodgers' talents on the field, surely he’ll say a few words. But then he’ll tell you about what a stand-up person Rodgers is in the locker room.
"He is a leader on and off the field -- which is really his nature," said Andreoli. "When I look back at the things he’s done over the past four years, what I remember the most, are all the small things that no one sees."
Whether the small things are trying to sit with the freshman basketball team when Rodgers was a starter on varsity as a freshman or just screwing in the facemasks of the helmets of younger players, the tight end has certainly learned how to be mature. While the California-bound senior is hoping for another super bowl win this season, he doesn’t sweat the little things either.
"When I go out on the field I know that a lot of people will know that I am going to Cal and they’re going to try say stuff and get to me like that," said Rodgers about his reputation. "But I just have to make sure I pay attention to the things happening around me and I’ll be fine."
ST. JOHN’S AT A GLANCE
2009: 10-2, won Central Mass Division 1 Super Bowl
Coach: John Andreoli (seventh year, 54-17)
Key Players: Richard Rodgers, Sr., WR/DE, 6-4, 230 lbs., (49 catches, 722 yards, 17 touchdowns); Dan Light, Sr., QB/DE, 6-4, 235 lbs.; John Vassar, Sr., RB/LB, 5-10, 200 lbs.; Brendan Melanson, Jr., C/DL, 6-3, 230; Tyler Pike, Sr., LT/DT, 6-1, 270 lbs.; Shaun Burlanson, Sr., LB/RB, 5-10, 200 lbs.; Mike Hogan, Sr., LB, 6-0, 210 lbs.; Efraim Montalbo, Jr., WR/PR, 5-8, 160 lbs.
Strengths: Size, Speed
Outlook: St. John’s is a very strong team. They are once again a favorite in Central Massachusetts, and look to take their talents to the Division 1 Super Bowl again. Although the Pioneers do have a tough schedule, they have the depth to overcome it. While Light does look like he will have a seamless transition from H-back to quarterback, he is still unproven. However, with Rodgers and Montalbo on the outside of the quads package, and Vassar as the running back, the chances are high that the Pioneers will return to the top.