The Massachusetts Pirates professional arena football team in Worcester has signed offensive lineman Khaliel Rodgers for the 2019 season. Rodgers played his college football with teams in two power five conferences, the Pac-12 and the Atlantic Coast Conference.
Injuries slowed his progress with the USC Trojans from 2013 through 2016 as he appeared in 20 games while starting 11. In 2017 he started 11 of 12 games for North Carolina as a graduate transfer. That season he graded out at 85 percent against North Carolina State, 90 percent vs. Pitt and had nine knock downs at Georgia Tech. His work as a Tar Heel earned him a look from NFL Teams.
“After college I had a mini camp with the Buffalo Bills, a workout with the Philadelphia Eagles and then I signed an AAF contract with the San Diego Fleet, but it didn’t work out. A couple of days later I got a call from the Massachusetts Pirates,” Rodgers said.
Pirates General Manager and Director of Player Personnel Jawad Yatim is excited to have a player like Rodgers under contract.
"Khaliel is a big signing for us. Lineman come at a premium in arena football and to get a player like Khaliel on board is substantial for us. He's a powerful presence, plays with a great base, balance and center of gravity and has good hand placement. The one thing that I really like about Khaliel's game that is evident on film, is that he plays through the whistle. He finishes his blocks and you can see the type of mentality he competes with on a play by play basis. He's competed at a very high level playing in the Pac-12 and ACC, excelled enough to have signed with the Buffalo Bills last off-season and is still extremely young having played his last college season in 2017. He has a bright future ahead of him and we are glad to have him a part of the Pirates organization," Yatim said.
He’s never played arena football but he knows much about it, growing up in New Castle, Delaware and living close to the Philadelphia Soul. Still this will be his first time actually playing in the arena game. He’s ready for the individual match ups the game offers.
“I love one on one, that’s my game being an offensive lineman. I think it will be a great opportunity for me to keep going and prolong my career in this game that I love. I think it will be an exciting experience to start in a new league,” he said.
The Delaware native actually went to Eastern Christian Academy in Maryland, a school that turned out almost two dozen division one players during his time there. That was just the beginning of his cross country journey in football.
“Coming out of high school I was ranked as the number one guard in the nation and I had a lot of big time offers. I remember getting an offer from USC and I always wanted to go out to the west coast. I finally got out there for a visit. They blew out UCLA 50-0. I fell in love with Lane Kiffin and just the tradition, so once I went out there I realized this is the place I’m supposed to play ball,” Rodgers said.
After his undergraduate work was finished he transferred as a graduate student to North Carolina. Before he took the field for the Tar Heels he briefly retired. Eventually everything worked out for the best.
“Right before training camp (with the Tar Heels) I dealt with a few issues back home with the family. I got it figured out and came right back. This game has brought so many blessings in my life as far as education, meeting new people and traveling all over the world. Like I say, this game has really been a blessing to me and my family,” he said humbly.
In his college career he had the unique distinction of being on teams that faced the University of Notre Dame five times. He said being a part of the USC – Notre Dame rivalry will be one of his most treasured memories.
“I think maybe my greatest experience in college football was playing at USC and going to Notre Dame. It was such a historical feeling because I’ve always heard about the great games that we’ve had together. I remember playing the Irish at home and walking out and the Notre Dame team was facing us. It was a crazy feeling to be a part of history like that and just to have that feeling of them crossing you and wanting to go to war. You finally step on the field and you look around. It’s a historical feeling you get and I will always remember that,” Rodgers said.
Now he’s looking forward to New England and he feels it won’t be much of an adjustment.
“No, it won’t be,” Rodgers said. “I’ll be on the east coast, the same time zone as my family now, so I think it will be a great opportunity. The Pirates have a great reputation of sending guys on to the next level so I’m all for it. I can’t wait to get up there,” he added.
The Massachusetts Pirates are members of the National Arena League (NAL). The Pirates play all home games at the DCU Center located at 50 Foster St. Worcester, MA. 01608. Pirate Nation Season Ticket Memberships for the 2019 season will be on sale in September. Pirate Nation Memberships start as low as $200.00. To become a Pirate Nation Season Ticket member or for more information on the Massachusetts Pirates please call (508) 452-MASS (6277), email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit www.masspiratesfootball.com. Single game tickets are available online at ticketmaster.com or the DCU Center Box Office. For group outings please call 508-452-MASS (6277). Follow the Pirates on Facebook at Facebook.com/MAPirates on Instagram @mass.pirates, as well as Twitter @mass_pirates.