Amari Rodgers Kept 'WRU' Flag Waving for Clemson in 2020

Clemson senior receiver Amari Rodgers had over 1,000 receiving yards and made first-team ACC yet went unnoticed in some ways, but he leaves a strong legacy behind.
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Amari Rodgers was a star in 2020 for the Clemson Tigers. 

The senior receiver was one of just 11 players in college football to have a 1,000-yard season. Rodgers led a high-powered offense in catches (73) and tied the team-lead with seven touchdowns on his way to making first-team All-ACC.

Still, it almost feels like his productive season has gone largely unnoticed. When you see or hear about Clemson's "stars," it's always Trevor Lawrence, Travis Etienne, James Skalski and others. Rodgers' name is oftentimes omitted.

Not that it matters to Rodgers, whose humble attitude and desire to help his team win is what he cares about, but he deserves recognition. He'll likely get some of it during the NFL draft in April. His career season is why he came back. Rodgers made a name for himself at the next level, and he'll be a productive pro. 

But that's not necessarily part of a player's legacy, and Rodgers certainly has one to leave behind. After declaring for the NFL draft earlier this week, what he meant to this Clemson program came to mind. 

The position he plays is pivotal in the mantras of this football program. "WRU" is a popular moniker that was started by former co-offensive coordinator Jeff Scott and players like Sammy Watkins, DeAndre Hopkins and Mike Williams. 

Those were All-American talents who went on to be first-round draft picks, and while Rodgers never quite reached that level, his importance in keeping Clemson's renowned pass-catching legacy alive is huge. Rodgers made sure the Tigers had a 1,000-yard receiver for the third consecutive season. 

With Justyn Ross out for the year after having surgery to repair congenital fusion in his spine, Rodgers did what veteran leaders do: He stepped up and assumed the No. 1 role, but he did it largely from the slot position, which is something Clemson's not used to having. 

Rodgers, who was also the primary punt returner during his career, isn't the proto-typical 6-foot-4, massive wing-span, go-up-and-get-it kind of receiver. He's smart, shifty, faster than he looks and built more like a running back. So to lead the position and give Lawrence a go-to option allowed this offense to hum. 

Cornell Powell, who had a breakout senior season, did most of his damage as the down-field threat in the second half of the season after defenses had to learn to shade toward Rodgers and try to neutralize the slot guy. 

As good as Powell ended up being, and he deserves a ton of credit for coming on strong in his final season, he has Rodgers to thank for some of his big-play opportunities. 

The legacy of Rodgers will be important to note in the history of this Clemson era when the Tigers are making the College Football Playoff and winning the ACC title every year. Rodgers helped bridge a gap at the premier position on the team. 

With Tee Higgins gone to the NFL, Ross sidelined, injuries ravaging Frank Ladson Jr. and Joseph Ngata, it was on the son of Tennessee assistant coach and national-title-winning quarterback Tee Martin to make sure there wasn't a drop-off in Lawrence's last season. 

There wasn't, and now Clemson's set up to have a monster 2021 at receiver. Ross, if/when healthy, could return for another season. He's a first-round NFL talent. Ladson and Ngata will head into their third years looking to fulfill the huge expectations they entered the program with a few years ago. 

Brannon Spector, E.J. Williams and Ajou Ajou will be seasoned and ready to contribute more, while true freshmen Beaux Collins, Dacari Collins and Troy Stellato represent the next batch of talented receivers to carry that flag. 

Meanwhile, Rodgers is a huge reason why this position will still flourish, and his production in 2020 will help recruiting and development. One of the greatest attributes he leaves behind is his work ethic, which rubbed off on so many Tigers. 

A gym rat in every sense of the phrase, Rodgers came back from a torn ACL in 2019 about as quickly as humanly possible. He worked tirelessly in the offseason to make sure he was ready for a bizarre 2020 season and get himself 100-percent healthy. It showed, sealing his legacy as a receiver like an Artavis Scott who shouldn't be forgotten. 

"Coming into it, this being my last season, I put everything into my preparation I wanted to give it my all," Rodgers said. "Give my all to the coaching staff and team so we could go out there and handle business."