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Meet the Falcons rookies: running back Jacquizz Rodgers
Oregon State product stepping into talented backfield
Atlanta Falcons rookie running back Jacquizz Rodgers approaches the line during a recent practice in Flowery Branch.

Despite a backfield that includes two-time 1,000-yard rusher Michael Turner, as well as Jason Snelling, his able backup, the Falcons saw something they liked in 5-foot-6 Jacquizz Rodgers.

During his three years at Oregon State, the dynamic back averaged more than 1,200 yards rushing and 15 touchdowns per season. He also showed durability, averaging more than 300 combined touches each season as a rusher and receiver.

That was more than enough to impress the Falcons, who traded up to grab Rodgers in the fifth round of April's NFL draft.

Rodgers spoke with Times sports editor Brent Holloway last week about his place in the Atlanta backfield and how he's getting acclimated to life in the NFL.

Question: After waiting all summer to get on the field, what was your first impression of life in the NFL?

Answer: Man, it really is a job, you know? You come in here, for us, the rookies this year, we've got to learn the plays in a short amount of time.

They're throwing everything at us in a four- to five-day period, and we've got to get it on the run. For me as running back, trying to learn everything, and just trying to digest it all - you know, you've got to learn it in the classroom, but you've got to execute it on the field, most of all. It's been a spin.

Q: You graduated high school as an honor graduate, so academics have been a big part of your past. Considering that, was it tough to make the choice to leave school early after your junior year?

A: Well, it was a tough process, but I did my work and I felt like leaving was the best decision for me. And during the lockout period, I went back to school to get further along in my degree.

Q: What degree are you pursuing?

A: An Ethnic Studies degree.

Q: How far away are you from graduating?

A: I've got about three more terms left. I want to try to get it done early in my career.

Q: Take me through the draft process. Did you know the Falcons were interested?

A: Well, I met with them at the combine, and that was one of the teams I was hoping for out of the four teams that were interested in me. Then on the day of the draft, I was waiting and waiting, and finally the Falcons called me and told me they had moved up in the fifth round and they said they were going to select me.

I was glad, because they were the best team of the four, and any time you can go into a winning organization on an offense that's already explosive, you can just fit right in.

Q: With so many pieces already on this offense, where do you see yourself fitting in?

A: That's what I'm trying to figure out right now. I'm just looking for my role and show the coaches what I can do, and hopefully be the third-down back and catch balls out of the backfield.

Q: Obviously your lack of height has been something you've had to overcome as a running back, going all the way back to high school. Back then, did you think the NFL could really be a part of your future?

A: That's something that I've always worked for. Because of my height, people are always going to doubt, no matter what. But I use that to my advantage. You know, people underestimate me, but I'm going to run hard, get in between those holes, get in behind those big offensive linemen and get yards that way.


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