With 33 days until the Indianapolis Colts kick off their season against the Denver Broncos, we look at No.33, former running back and fan favorite Dominic Rhodes. Photo - Zimbio.com
Dominic Rhodes may have made his final carry for the Indianapolis Colts four years ago, but the team’s fans have still not forgotten him or stopped considering him one of their favorites. An enthusiastic underdog, Rhodes captured the attention of fans as an undrafted rookie in 2001 when he filled in for superstar running back Edgerrin James when James tore his ACL against the Kansas City Chiefs – a game in which Rhodes also returned a kick for a touchdown.
The small-in-stature running back (5’9”, 203lbs) starred at Cooper High School in Abilene, TX before attending Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas. There, he was a two-time All-American and All-Conference player before playing his final two collegiate years at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, Texas where he would continue to excel.
In filling in for James in 2001, Rhodes set the NFL record for rushing yards by an undrafted rookie with 1,104 yards (in just 10 starts). Unfortunately for Rhodes, he was unable to build off of his productive rookie year, as he, too tore an ACL and missed the 2002 season.
2002 would also be the year Rhodes began to encounter his fair share of off-the-field issues. He was charged with domestic battery in a dispute with his then girlfriend. He avoided prosecution, but was charged and underwent a diversionary program and mental health counseling.
In 2005, the same woman, now Rhodes’ wife, got into an altercation with another woman who was having dinner with Rhodes. According to RTV6, a neighbor said disturbances were not a rare thing at Rhodes’ home, supported by the spray-painted message on Rhodes’ garage door.
On the field, things were going well for Rhodes. He started all 16 games during the regular season en route to the Colts’ Super Bowl XLI victory. He ran for over 110 yards in the team’s first championship in the Indianapolis era. However, after the season came more trouble, as he was arrested for drunk driving in 2007.
A free agent once the 2007 NFL offseason began, Rhodes signed a two-year, $7.5 million contract with the Oakland Raiders, but was suspended for the first four games of the season for a reoccurrence of a failed drug test. Rhodes had a modest season with Oakland and was cut two days after the 2008 draft, when the Raiders picked running back Darren McFadden with their first-round pick.
Rhodes signed back with the Colts on a one-year deal for the 2008 season and chipped in over 500 yards and six touchdowns. However, he was not re-signed when he became a free agent after the season and signed with the Buffalo Bills. However, Rhodes was unable to make his mark in Buffalo, as he was cut during the preseason by the Bills.
After being cut by the Bills, Rhodes caught on with the Florida Tuskers of the United Football League. For the 2010 season, he set UFL records in rushing yards (547), single-season touchdowns (10) and all-purpose yards (918) and was second in the league in kick return average with 21.7 per return. The Tuskers made it to the UFL Championship game, but lost.
After the championship loss, Rhodes signed back with – you guessed it – the Colts. He helped finish off the season for the Colts, but the team lost in the playoffs to the New York Jets. After the Colts’ loss, Rhodes contract expired yet again. Commissioner Roger Goodell announced that Rhodes would be one of nine free agents suspended for substance abuse issues, Rhodes’ suspension being for an entire year being that it was his third offense.
Rhodes would later tell The Palm Beach Post, “It was for marijuana, that’s it,” Rhodes said. “But there are no excuses. I hadn’t even done anything when I was in the NFL. When I was in the UFL, early on in the season I was doing it. I quit but there was still a little trace in me.”
Having no market in the NFL, Rhodes went back down to the UFL, this time with the Virginia Destroyers (formerly the Florida Tuskers). That season, he set the league’s single-game rushing record with a 217-yard, 3-touchdown outburst. He won the UFL Offensive Player of the Year award, and his team won the UFL Championship. Rhodes became one of just four former NFL players to win both an NFL Super Bowl and a UFL Championship.
Still with no market in the NFL, Rhodes signed with the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League, bit did not make it to the regular season, being cut less than three months after signing. According to CFL rules, at least half of each team’s roster must be made up of Canadians, and there were already a couple of young, talented, American running backs on the roster.
For his career, Rhodes rushed for 3,286 yards on 814 carries (4.0 YPC) and 26 touchdowns, caught 147 receptions for 1,025 and 4 touchdowns, and had 147 kickoff returns for 3,374 yards and 2 touchdowns (23.0 YPR).
As a member of the Colts, Rhodes rushed for 2,984 yards on 739 carries (4.0 YPC) and 25 touchdowns, caught 136 receptions for 955 and 4 touchdowns, and had 131 kickoff returns for 3,062 yards and 2 touchdowns (23.4 YPR).
As of January, Rhodes has been hoping for an NFL comeback. According to The Post, Rhodes has been training in Dallas and can run a 4.46-second 40-yard dash (which he has video proof of).
“I would love for a team to give me an opportunity just for a workout,” Rhodes told The Post. “I don’t want to be given a spot or anything. I just want a workout so people can see I can still play.”
“I’m ready to roll,” he said. “If I do get an opportunity I’m not trying to mess it up. I have at least two or three good years left in me, at least the way my body feels. If I get that opportunity I ain’t trying to mess that up at all.”
Off of the field, Rhodes has the “Rhodes to Success Foundation”, including the “Rhodes to Success Football Camp”. According to KTXS.com, “Rhodes to Success” is a nonprofit foundation that Rhodes founded in November 2008. Rhodes told KTXS, "I try to make sure these kids know you can make it if you work hard and keep being determined," Rhodes said. "Don't let anybody ruin your dreams."
With how fragile the Colts’ running back stable is, many fans would likely welcome the idea of Rhodes back in town.
For more of the “Indianapolis Colts Countdown to Kickoff” series, check out the entries below!
CTK No. 98-90
CTK No. 89-80
CTK No. 79-70
CTK No. 69-60
CTK No. 59-50
No. 59 Cato June, No. 58 Gary Brackett, No. 57 Josh McNary, No. 56 Daniel Adongo, No. 55 Quentin Coryatt, No. 54 Andrew Jackson, No. 53 Ray Donaldson, No. 52. D'Qwell Jackson, No. 51 Henoc Muamba, No. 50 Jerrell Freeman
CTK No. 49-40
No. 49 Caesar Rayford, No. 48 Justin Snow, No. 47 Weslye Saunders, No. 46 CTK Recap, No. 45 Matt Overton, No. 44 Dallas Clark, No. 43 Matt Giordano, No. 42 Jason David, No. 41 Antoine Bethea, No. 40 Sheldon Price
CTK No. 39-30
Questions or comments? Leave them in the comment box below!
Jake Arthur is the AFC South Division Manager and the Indianapolis Colts Lead Writer for Pro Football Spot, as well as a member of the Professional Football Writers of America. Follow @JakeArthurISR and @Spot_Colts on Twitter, as well as on Google+, or send Jake an e-mail at JakeArthur0890@yahoo.com.