Syracuse University Magazine


Sam Rodgers

Uplifting Athlete

It was the long snap—one of football’s most overlooked specialties—that brought Sam Rodgers ’15 to Syracuse on an athletic scholarship. But the ability to snap a spiraling football to a punter 15 yards away led to much more for Rodgers. “One of my goals was to be a four-year starter and start every game,” says the State College, Pennsylvania, native, who majored in nutrition at the Falk College of Sport and Human Dynamics. “When I got to Syracuse, I knew I was capable of doing more than snapping and going to school.”

What Rodgers did was define himself as a scholar-athlete, leader, and role model whose actions reflected his hard work, dedication, and deep commitment to his Christian faith. On the gridiron, he hit his goal—starting in all 50 games of his career—and served as a captain for the 2014 Orange. His academic accolades included being selected as a Remembrance Scholar and a Falk College Class Marshal who delivered the student address at Convocation. (Rodgers prerecorded his address because he was at a tryout with the Buffalo Bills on Commencement weekend.) He was named a 2014 Capital One Academic All-American, awarded an ACC post-graduate scholarship, and honored as a member of the 2014 Allstate-American Football Coaches Association Good Works Team for community service.

Perhaps most important, Rodgers viewed his status as a football player as a platform for creating opportunities to help others. He launched a chapter of the nonprofit Uplifting Athletes at SU, organizing two Lift for Life events for the football team that raised more than $15,000 for brain cancer research in honor of his friend and former Orange punter Rob Long ’12, G’14. He served as president of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) campus chapter. And, he made two missionary trips to Haiti, running a soccer clinic and helping build a basketball court, greenhouses, and other facilities at two orphanages. “You see the kids look up to you and see them seeing hope through you,” he says.

Rodgers places great value in relationships and appreciates all those he’s established on the Hill—with teammates, classmates, coaches, professors, and others. He’s especially grateful for the influential role FCA and director Nathan Bliss ’05 played during his time on campus. FCA kept him grounded, he says, and it’s also where he met his wife, Jenna Rickan ’13, the previous president and a former Orange women’s soccer player. They married in July.

When asked about his achievements, Rodgers quotes Colossians 3:23Whatever you do, work heartily, as for the Lord and not for men—and says he always strives to perform to the best of his ability. A graduate of Mercersburg Academy, where he excelled in wrestling, baseball, and football, and polished his academic and life skills, Rodgers cites his mental discipline for his transformation from a self-described “chubby kid” with a monstrous soda habit to a premier long snapper with sights set on the NFL.

His commitment to a healthy eating regimen sparked his interest in nutrition. Combined with a minor in entrepreneurship, an affinity for public speaking, and a graduate school option, Rodgers may one day create his own path in the business world. But for now, he is still thinking about football. “I have so many things I feel I can be successful in,” he says. “Maybe it’s the kid in me, but I still just want to snap footballs.” —Jay Cox

Photo courtesy of SU Athletics