Snap to attention: Rhodes enjoying playoff ride with Colts
The Indianapolis Colts are the NFL’s Cinderella story, and Hollidaysburg native Luke Rhodes is enjoying the ride.
Rhodes, a 2011 graduate of Hollidaysburg, is in his third season with the Colts and second as their long snapper.
Indy got off to a slow start at 1-5 but won nine of its last 10 to crash the playoffs as an AFC wild card entry.
Rhodes, 26, said the team’s playoff mentality carried into last week’s 21-7 first-round win at Houston.
“We’ve been in playoff mode since November really,” he said. “It’s been awesome playing meaningful games through December.”
Now the Colts have set their sights on the AFC’s top seed, Kansas City. Kickoff is 4:35 p.m. Saturday at Arrowhead Stadium.
“Even after our (Dec. 2, 6-0) loss to Jacksonville, we never lost sight of our process and found our way into the last wildcard spot,” Rhodes said. “Our focus then wasn’t on winning a playoff game but on beating the Texans. And now it’s on going 1-0 again beating the Chiefs.”
Confidence is high in Indy.
“Making the playoffs is what we set out to do from the beginning of OTAs and training camp,” Rhodes said. “It’s what we play for. (But) we’re not done yet. We didn’t come this far just to get into the playoffs.”
Rhodes credited first-year coach Frank Reich for leading the turnaround.
“I think the adversity we faced early in the season shows a lot about our team toughness and conviction,” he said. “Even when we were down, Coach never changed his message to the team about surrendering the outcome and trusting the process. We’ve continued to just focus on getting 1 percent better each and every day, and it has shown up in our last 11 games. Trust, toughness and team are our three Ts, and we’ve all bought into it.”
Rhodes, a 2016 free agent out of William & Mary who originally signed with the Colts as a linebacker, is the triggerman for 46-year-old Adam Vinatieri, the NFL’s all-time leading scorer.
Holder Rigoberto Sanchez rounds out the trio, which was formed in 2017.
“Obviously last year, it being a new group, it took a little while for us all to kind of get on the same page,” Vinatieri told Colts.com earlier this year. “But it’s great. Each one of us kind of already knows each other pretty well. I love working with these two guys. They are awesome pros.”
Reich told Colts.com that the precision of the field-goal operation — snap, hold, kick — “can’t be underestimated.”
“It’s a game of split seconds,” he said. “Every split second that that kicker gets a cleaner look at the ball, the percentages go up of making a field goal. And I am talking a tenth of a second is like a year in a kicker’s eye. So the job that Luke and Rigo (Sanchez) have done certainly can’t go unnoticed.”
Colts.com called work of the trio as “essentially perfect,” and Pro Football Focus recently graded Rhodes, who also has four solo tackles, as one of the league’s top five special teams players.
Rhodes said the recognition “just shows how snapping is not my entire role on special teams. I put a tremendous effort into perfecting my snapping, but I also work extremely hard on other areas to remain an athletic and effective cover player on punt.”
He credited snapper coach Kyle Stelter and Jess Clark, his trainer and nutritionist, for their “countless hours for me to be at my best.”