NASHVILLE – As a youngster growing up in Ohio, Titans guard Rodger Saffold III knew from an early age he wanted to play football.
His father, Rodger Saffold II, showed him the way with love and support.
"My dad played football, so we had a football home," Saffold said of his father, who played at the University of Iowa in the mid-1970s. "I used to watch high school, college, and professional football games at a very young age. I decided I wanted to play football when I was nine, and my dad helped me figure out what I was going to do."
Rodger Saffold II helped his son pick his position, and he steered him toward his dreams.
Saffold said his father drove him to workouts, and supported him every step of the way, through his playing days at Bedford High (Ohio), and into his collegiate days at Indiana University, where he became a dominant performer, and a team captain. Saffold said his father used to send him tapes of players to watch when he was in college, and it helped him turn into an NFL-caliber talent. Saffold was drafted in the second round of the 2010 NFL Draft by the Rams.
"He was always there, very supportive," Saffold said of his father. "During games in high school he would give (me) a thumbs up and thumbs down after drives (when I came off the field) to see how well I did. Thankfully, it was always a thumbs up."
Along the way, Rodger Saffold III also learned how to be a man, thanks to his father's steady guidance.
"He basically taught me about having the values of good character, and a leadership role and all those things and to match that with being in love with the hard work and the grind and that has carried me through this whole time," Saffold said. "I have been playing over 20 years now and he was a big part of that."
Rodger Saffold III, an 11-year NFL veteran who is set to begin his second season with the Titans, lost his father at the end of August. Funeral services for Rodger Saffold II were on Wednesday, September 2.
Saffold left the Titans briefly to support his family, but he returned to be with his teammates, who have done their best to keep his mind off the loss of his dear father. Practices, and a game plan for the opener, have allowed him the opportunity to turn his attention away from his sorrow.
When Rodger Saffold III discussed his father during a video conference call last week, he bragged about the man who was "a huge support system for me all my life." The two talked before every single game, and after every game.
On Monday, before the Titans face the Broncos in the season opener, Rodger Saffold won't be able to pick up the phone in the hours leading up to kickoff to talk to his father, something he's done since he first started playing football 20 years ago.
But he knows his father will be with him in spirit.
"I am still going to talk to him," Saffold said. "One of my rituals is going to be praying (before games), so I am still going to be talking to my father through that form. And I am just going to continue to play how I know how to play.
"This has raised a lot of motivation for me, just wanting to get out and do what I can for myself and my family. So, motivation is not going to be a problem for me this year. So I just think taking all of (the heartbreak) and putting it in the right direction and being productive for this team is what's going to be best for me and for my family."
Titans Online looks back at guard Rodger Saffold's 2019 season (Photos: Donald Page)