Colts Rhodes finally gets his chance to start at RB Associated Press 8/1/2006
TERRE HAUTE, Ind. (AP) -Dominic Rhodes' long wait is over.
After spending five seasons overcoming obstacles, battling through injuries and running in the shadow of Edgerrin James, Rhodes arrived at the Indianapolis Colts training camp with an opportunity to start in the NFL.
``It's like you say in church when you get that feeling 'Hallelujah,''' Rhodes said this week.
The confident Rhodes is a rarity in today's NFL.
Many 27-year-old running backs with similar resumes - career backup, kick returner and injury prone - are being cast aside for younger, bigger, faster players with more potential.
The Colts see something else in Rhodes.
``He's one of the most competitive guys around,'' two-time NFL MVP Peyton Manning said.
Rhodes has beaten the odds many times despite lacking prototypical size and being slowed by a torn knee ligament, a problematic shoulder and a litany of other nagging injuries.
Most teams overlooked the 5-foot-9, 203-pound back who played at Midwestern State in Texas. Indianapolis gave him a chance in 2001.
While few expected Rhodes would make the team, he won the backup job. When James tore his anterior cruciate ligament in Week 6, Rhodes responded by producing an NFL record for undrafted rookies (1,104 yards rushing).
Since then, Rhodes' career has been more about frustrations than celebrations.
He missed the 2002 season when he injured his right knee, had shoulder surgery in 2004 and was relegated to backup duty after James' return.
It was not the path Rhodes envisioned, but his perseverance has paid off.
``It's been a long time coming, and I don't feel I need to prove anything except to be here every day,'' he said. ``They can see the results.''
Colts coaches already know what they have in Rhodes - a tough, confident competitor with high expectations.
It was one reason team president Bill Polian allowed James to test free agency in March. It took the Arizona Cardinals one day to wrap up a four-year, $30 million deal for the Colts' career rushing leader.
Suddenly, with the job Rhodes' to lose, he immersed himself in offseason workouts. He lifted harder, added about 10 pounds and found himself running faster.
``We're pleased with the efforts he's made coming back,'' running backs coach Gene Huey said. ``He understands being ready to play at a moment's notice and that when your opportunity comes, you have to perform.''
But just when Rhodes thought he finally won the job, the Colts took another running back, Joseph Addai, with their No. 1 draft pick in April.
The initial plan is to have Rhodes and Addai, a 5-11, 214-pound rookie with a penchant for blocking, share carries.
If that's the case, Rhodes won't fret, but he wants to show he can be the Colts' new workhorse back.
``It doesn't matter, I love challenges,'' he said. ``With me being an undrafted free agent, everyone's always putting obstacles in front of you. What I have to do is overcome them.''
The first two days of camp have been typical of Rhodes' rollercoaster career.
Addai drew cheers when he broke a long run in the first 11-on-11 drill Monday. He also was impressive in one-on-one blocking drills.
Tuesday's practice went better for Rhodes, as he broke several big runs and caught several passes.
Most importantly, he was not one of the players on the sidelines.
"DAMMIT!!!!! I knew it, I knew it, I KNEW IT!!!!"-Immortal words of The Captain
It's really nice to see both are so competitive. That can only breed solid results, given both players' abilities. It's also refreshing to actually read something about the Colts running game that doesn't focus so much on Addai. Rhodes has really been patient in waiting for this opportunity, so he certainly deserves first crack at the job. Great read, MSB. Thanks for that.