Hoosier fans will want to be on the lookout for No. 76 on the Los Angeles Rams tonight.
As both the longest tenured Ram and former Indiana Hoosier in the National Football League, Rodger Saffold has been at this for a while.
Nine seasons in the NFL, and it could all pay off on the game’s biggest stage — the Super Bowl.
No one could have seen this coming 15 years ago. Rated just a two-star recruit in high school, Saffold wasn’t recruited at the highest levels of college football. He chose to attend IU over Illinois, Kansas and Ohio.
The Bedford, Ohio native wasted no time proving the recruiting analysts wrong.
Saffold was inserted into the Hoosier starting lineup as a freshman — and he’s been a starter ever since.
Man looking at these old highlights really takes me back! Always have love and appreciation for IU! https://t.co/ogX6hotdki
— Rodger Saffold (@Rodger_Saffold) February 1, 2019
For a long time, no one could have seen this coming for the Rams either.
Saffold toiled through a lot of tough years with the Rams franchise in St. Louis and then in Los Angeles. The team did not record a single winning season during his first seven years in the league. That included a miserable 2-14 record in 2011.
Just like that two-star recruit, the Rams’ left guard just kept grinding away, and it finally started to pay off in 2017.
In the Rams second season in Los Angeles, and the first under head coach Sean McVay, the turnaround began. The Rams finished last year with an 11-5 record and the first playoff berth of Saffold’s career. They lost their Wildcard round game to the Falcons, but it was clear that a new era of Rams football had arrived, and Saffold was a centerpiece.
Saffold has earned the reputation as an athletic and versatile lineman that can get to the second level in the run game. McVay said this recently in an ESPN story on the former Hoosier star —
“What he enables us to do both in the run and the pass,” McVay said, “the combination of his athleticism, his ability to get to the second level, play in space, but then also play with power, get removal at the line of scrimmage. You’re not limited in any really scheme run-wise. He’s a great matchup.”
Saffold has started 30 games over the past two seasons, leading the way for an offense that features the second-leading rusher in the NFL in Todd Gurley, and quarterback Jared Goff, who passed for 4,273 yards this season.
As part of a winning team with a high caliber offense, the honors and recognition followed.
Saffold, who was voted second team All-Big Ten in 2008 and 2009, also earned second team NFL All-Pro honors in 2017.
A leader in the Rams locker room, he was also named the team’s candidate for the NFL’s Walter Payton Man of the Year award after the 2017 season for leading numerous efforts in the community.
Now he will lead the Rams out of the tunnel on the NFL’s biggest stage with the goal of making the ultimate first team — Super Bowl Champions.
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