Rodney Gunter crushed the odds to make it to the NFL
GLENDALE, Ariz. – The odds were severely against Rodney Gunter ever making it to the NFL. Due to family circumstances, Gunter had to cut back on his passion – football – and get a job at a retirement home waiting tables and washing dishes.
Gunter would go to school, then he’d go and work his job in the evening, then he’d go home, do his homework, and hope to get some kind of sleep so he could get up the next day and do it all over again.
Gunter worked 32 hours a week at the retirement home. So, figuring his work schedule into his school schedule, and what little time he had with his mother and his two younger brothers, where was football going to fit in? Until his senior year, all Gunter was able to play was some spring football in his freshman year before his life went twisty turvy.
“It was very tough, it was very tough. I’m a hard worker, so I got through it. It’s for my mom too also. I was supporting her, so I was fighting through it trying to balance it all out,” Gunter said.
Gunter’s mother is the most inspiring person in his life. For him to set his passion on the back-burner for nearly his entire high school career to do what he did for her and his younger brothers shows what’s inside this young man, and it also shows exactly why Steve Keim and Bruce Arians swapped picks with the Cleveland Browns in the NFL Draft to move up and get him.
It was such a bold and surprising move the Cardinals made moving up to get him, that it completely overwhelmed Gunter when he heard his name called last Saturday.
“I didn’t know at all. They gave me a call (in) the fourth round before they called my name and was like, ‘Rodney, hey watch the TV, you’re name’s being called,’” Gunter said. “I hit my knees and started praying. It was so unreal. I passed out for like three minutes.”
Yes, Gunter actually passed out after getting the call from Arians and Keim. He thought it was a dream, but it wasn’t. Gunter was actually drafted by an NFL franchise. It’s something he’d been working so hard for his entire life and it came to fruition.
“It was very (surprising), because they were expecting me to go (in) the next round, or the next pick to a different team,” Gunter said.
It’s funny how life threw Gunter all those curveballs and changeups and he continually hit them out of the park. A lot of his days were gloomy and grim because he thought no colleges had any interest in him because he didn’t play that much and his game tape was hardly full.
Those grey skies turned sunny and blue when Delaware State came calling. They were the only team to offer him a scholarship to play football. He took that opportunity and ran full speed with it. He started all four years for them and was a three-time All-MEAC selection.
Gunter says it was killing him to not play football for all those years, so he had a lot of lost time to make up for. He made the best of a tough situation and now his dream has come true.
Gunter’s a very quiet and humble young man. All this attention he’s getting because of his new found “fame” isn’t something he’s quite used to yet.
“I’m just surprised by all this attention,” Gunter said. “I’m trying to learn from the veterans like Calais Campbell and Frostee Rucker.”
It’ll be a little while until Gunter gets to take the field with Campbell and Rucker. The first OTA session for the Cardinals isn’t scheduled to start until May 19. In the meantime, Gunter gets a chance to meet up with the other six rookies drafted by Arizona, and the undrafted rookie free agents, and others trying out for the team starting on Friday. The rookie minicamp will run through Sunday at the Cardinals’ facility in Tempe, Ariz.
Gunter already knows what he wants to get accomplished over the next 72 hours.
“I’m trying to learn as much as I can (in) the rookie minicamp to get better, (and) get in the playbook also,” Gunter said. “That’s my main goal, (to) get in the playbook.”
“I just want to contribute to the team. I want to be a major contribution to the team, (and) get some playing time on the field,” Gunter said.