Commentary

Rodgers-Cromartie is a singular sensation

Updated: October 10, 2008, 9:08 AM ET
By Mike Loveday | ESPNRISE.com

One is usually the loneliest number, but for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie, the journey that took him from a player only one college recruited to an NFL first-round draft selection started with the number one.

[+] EnlargeDominique Rodgers-Cromartie
AP Photo/Michael ConroyDominique Rodgers-Cromartie impressed scouts at the NFL Combine.

Born with only one functioning kidney, Rodgers-Cromartie had the nonfunctioning kidney removed when he was 8 years old, yet did not have to go on dialysis and never had any issues playing football.

"The doctor cleared me, and I've been doing physical activity ever since I can remember," Rodgers-Cromartie told the Boston Globe.

Born in Bradenton, Fla., Rodgers-Cromartie played only one year of high school football at Lakewood Ranch High School. He played at a different high school in each of his four years, but received playing time only during his senior year at Lakewood Ranch.

Did any of this prompt Dominique to give up on his dream of playing in the NFL? No. He kept working hard and maintained his focus.

Rodgers-Cromartie made the most of his one year at Lakewood Ranch, earning All-Area, All-Class 5A and All-District 11 honors as a defensive back and wide receiver.

His lack of playing time probably affected his scholarship offers. Division I-AA Tennessee State was the only college that recruited Rodgers-Cromartie, although one recruiting service did say Tennessee State was getting the most underrated prospect in Florida.

Rodgers-Cromartie proved his worth during his first year on campus. He recorded two interceptions his freshman season and returned both for touchdowns. For the season, he had 33 total tackles and three touchdowns, earning the Ohio Valley Conference's Defensive Newcomer of the Year award.

As a sophomore, Rodgers-Cromartie allowed just 1.86 yards per pass attempt, the lowest total by a Division 1-AA defender in a season since 1990, when Aeneas Williams averaged 1.99 yards for Southern University, according to NFL.com.

By the end of his senior year, the cousin of San Diego Chargers cornerback Antonio Cromartie earned NFL draft consideration. He made the Ohio Valley Conference's first team as a junior and senior and started 39 of 44 games in his college career. He had more than 300 return yards on his 11 career interceptions, but it was his performances in the Senior Bowl and NFL combine that propelled him into the first round.

[+] EnlargeDominique Rodgers-Cromartie
AP Photo/Ross D. FranklinRodgers-Cromartie's focus and hard work helped him become a first-round draft pick.

Playing for the South team in the Senior Bowl, Rodgers-Cromartie had the duty of preventing high-profile quarterbacks Joe Flacco, Chad Henne and John David Booty from completing passes -- and he passed the test. He was named the South team MVP after recording four solo tackles and one of the team's two interceptions.

After that performance, there was no doubt Rodgers-Cromartie was going to be drafted. After he ran a 4.33 in the 40-yard dash and an 11.06 in the 60-yard shuttle, and recorded a 38-5 vertical leap, he helped propel himself into the first round.

Five years after his only year of high school football, the Arizona Cardinals selected the Florida native in the first round of the 2008 NFL draft.

Rodgers-Cromartie has since added some other numbers to his career. He signed a five-year, $15.1 million contract with Arizona and was named the starting nickelback in the Cardinals' secondary as a rookie.

And after all the ones in his life -- one kidney, one year of high school football, starter in his first year of college -- that one before the five in his first NFL contract just might be the sweetest one of all.

Mike Loveday covers high school sports for ESPNRISE.com.