“‘I’d love to play in the NFL,’” Rodger II fondly remembered his son saying. “I said, ‘Well, if you want to do that, let’s sit down and figure out what we need to do to get you there.”
With today’s 2010 NFL Draft that dream becomes a reality.
Saffold, who after his senior season in Bloomington was regarded as second-day pick, has recently shot up the draft boards and is one of the top offensive line prospects available.
If selected in the first round, he will be the first IU player taken since wide receiver Thomas Lewis in 1994.
Saffold’s overall size, natural athleticism and above-average balance and agility have NFL general managers coveting the Hoosier. A starter at left tackle since midway through his freshman year, Saffold allowed only one sack in 2009.
But getting to this point hasn’t been easy.
Since the age of 12, Saffold followed a daily routine: go to school, then train for football. After classes, he would lift weights and condition at the Euclid Sports Plant, as well as work on his protection skills with other offensive lineman. He also attended Ohio State football camps for years.
By the time he reached high school in talent-rich Northeast Ohio, the transition from middle school competition wasn’t hard.
“When football came, it was almost easy to me,” Saffold said.
After starting at offensive tackle and defensive end for much of his career at Bedford High School, he finished his career on the 2005 first team All-Lake Erie League.
Though his skills on the field were remarkable, former Bedford coach Brian Staats marveled most at Saffold’s leadership ability.
“Especially his senior year, he really grew into a leadership role,” Staats said. “He would take the bull by the horns, so to speak. He really made sure guys did the right thing.”
When Saffold reached the college ranks, he wasn’t the prototypical offensive lineman. But according to IU coach Bill Lynch, his progression throughout four years was unmatched.
“He physically wasn’t the size you are looking for in a Big Ten tackle at the time, but you knew he was going to get bigger,” Lynch said. “As he has gone through the years, he has gotten bigger, stronger, worked very hard in the weight room and developed himself not only into a great college player but someone who could get drafted early in the NFL Draft.”
After earning many accolades during his senior season at IU, Saffold focused this offseason preparation on the draft.
He trained six days a week at IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., to work on every aspect of his game.
In the East-West Shrine game — an all-star game featuring many of the nation’s top prospects — and the NFL Combine, his hard work was on full display.
In practices leading to the East-West game, Saffold dominated all individual drills and proved his skill against defensive linemen of other top conferences. During the NFL combine, his scores were among the highest of all offensive line participants.
“It showed that I could go against speed rushers and go against defensive ends from all over the country,” Saffold said. “That was definitely a big turning point.”
On Thursday night, Saffold will watch the NFL draft with family and friends at a local sports bar in Bedford. It will be a night, he said, he will never forget.
“It’s been a real process from beginning to end,” Saffold said. “Instead of looking at the final picture, I have to look at all of the things I’ve gone through to make it here. I’ve just taken it a little bit at a time.”
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