For a long-snapper to get noticed, it usually means that something went wrong. For Syracuse's Sam Rodgers, he became the center of attention for doing everything right.
Syracuse football players and coaches honored their senior with a surprise celebration on Wednesday for his community service in the Syracuse region and around the world.
"Honestly, I had no idea," Rodgers said. "I just knew I had some meeting with Coach (Bob) Brotzki at 8:45 and walked in and saw a bunch of interviewers and cameras here. And when everyone coordinated, stood up and started clapping, it was like – woah. What’s going on? I’ll remember this. This will be one of the top moments at Syracuse."
Rodgers walked into the Manley Field House cafeteria at 8:47 a.m. on Wednesday morning, expecting another team breakfast. When he was greeted by a standing ovation from dozens of teammates, he quickly realized that wasn't the case. He's one of 22 Division-I athletes who made Allstate's AFCA Good Works Team and was presented with a plaque during the event.
"The first time I saw his face look the way it just did when he walked in here was when we told him he was going to be our starting long snapper when he got here," Scott Shafer joked.
Since then, he hasn't missed a game in four years for Syracuse. And off the field, he's been just as reliable.
Rodgers formed the Syracuse chapter of "Uplifting Athletes", which works to fight rare diseases. He's the president of the campus Fellowship of Christian Athletes and became only one of two FBS long-snappers named as a team captain. During the last two summers, he's spent a week volunteering with an orphanage in Haiti, where he built a greenhouse and recreation facilities.
"But I don’t want people to be discouraged and think you have to go to Haiti to make a difference or raise money for brain cancer to make a difference," Rodgers said. "There are so many different things you can do in your day-to-day activities that, if done, will go a long way in making a difference."
In Syracuse, he's coordinated the Lift for Life event. That event has raised about $20,000 in medical research for the strain of brain cancer that former punter Rob Long beat.
"I’m thankful that I’ve had the opportunity to come up and see Sam and be a part of this," Long said. "Thank you for all that you’ve done for me and my cause. It’s something special."
Rodgers credits his scheduled, detail-oriented demeanor for allowing him to find time for both charitable work and the commitment of being a Division-I athlete. Although he admits that it's a difficult balance, Rodgers said football and philanthropy have actually gone hand in hand.
"I’m given that platform so it’s almost easier to reach out to the community because I’m on the football team," Rodgers said. "It’s easier to get a message out there and to really mobilize the community to support a cause."