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Friday, April 1, 2011

The Rhodes Less Traveled

As a freshman, Owen-Gage’s Clyde Rhodes had
no chance at playing college football. 4 years later,
he’s proved the critics wrong, inking with Concordia

Paul Adams has the story...

OWENDALE — Football is measured by numbers.
Number of bench press reps, 40 times and so on. Although the numbers are helpful tools used to predict how a player will fare, they don’t always tell the full story. 
When Clyde Rhodes was an underclassman for Owendale-Gagetown, he hoped to one day be a starter. Through hard work he achieved that, eventually becoming a defensive player of the year for the Bulldogs.
Even though he showed vast improvement, he never thought it would be enough to take him to the next level.
Friday, Rhodes realized his goal as he signed his letter of intent to play for Concordia University in  Ann Arbor. 
“It’s kind of unreal,” said Rhodes. “You hope and you want to do, but when you finally hear that it’s real, it feels awesome.”
Rhodes described himself as five-foot-nothing, about 120 pounds soaking wet when he was a freshman and sophomore.
He heard it all from the critics.
“People have been telling me my whole life, ‘You’re too little, you’re too slow,’ stuff like that,” he said. “Even some of my close friends told me I couldn’t do it. It just makes you work harder and harder. I used that as motivation.”
Owen-Gage coach Jason Pierce said Rhodes’ first years on the team were a little rocky, with some slight problems.
“When he was younger, he was lippy, to put it nicely,” said Pierce. “But he learned from the older kids and he tried to work harder to be with them.”
From that work with the leaders of the team, Pierce and his coaching staff began to see progress in Rhodes.
“It was his junior year that me and the other coaches knew that his heart was going to get him somewhere,” he said. “As a freshman and sophomore, he was kind of just on the team. But as a junior, he became a player. And that was because of his heart and drive.”
Pierce, a former college player at Eastern Michigan, has seen players with much more ability, but lacking the drive.
“You can bench press all you want, but you can’t measure heart,” he said. “There’s guys all over college who weren’t the best players on their teams, but they made it to college through their motor.”
Rhodes will get a chance to be part of a budding tradition at Concordia. The football program just completed its first season, going 5-2.
Concordia is a member of the Wolverine-Hoosier Athletic Conference, which is made up of 10 schools from Michigan, Ohio and Indiana.
For Owen-Gage, Rhodes was primarily a linebacker. At Concordia, he will play a hybrid — safety/linebacker.
Rhodes is one of the few players left at Owen-Gage that played both 11-man and 8-man football. He said playing linebacker in 8-man is more challenging, and will help him in his transition to the collegiate level.
“Going from 11-man to 8-man, you can see a lot of differences,” he said. “The defense is a little harder, you have to be faster off the ball to make the right reads because you don’t have those three other players.”
Added Pierce: “Defensively for 8-man, especially at Clyde’s position of linebacker, we asked him to cover a lot more area and gaps than he would have in 11-man. He has to cover more ground with less time, so I think it has prepared him for the next level.”
Rhodes is still getting used to the idea of playing at the next level, but he thinks he’s ready for the challenge.
“My coaches have taught me and helped me through a lot of stuff,” he said. “I think I will be ready. It will be great. I think it will be pretty cool.”
Rhodes is the son of Clyde Rhodes Sr. and Lynn Rhodes. 

Owen-Gage football player Clyde Rhodes signed his letter of intent to play for Concordia University on Friday. He was joined (from left) by Owen-Gage football coach Jason Pierce, his mom Lynn Rhodes, and his dad Clyde Rhodes Sr. 


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