According to the official athletics website of Slippery Rock University, quarterback Roland Rivers III has accepted an invite from the Pittsburgh Steelers to try out at the team’s rookie minicamp later this month.
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Rivers—6-foot-2 and 234 pounds—last played in 2019, when he led Division II Slippery Rock (13-1) to its best season in school history, while also winning the Harlon Hill Trophy, which is awarded to the Division II college football player of the year. He was also named National Offensive Player of the Year and was a unanimous first team All-American, taking his team to the NCAA Division II national semifinals.
Along the way, he tied the Division II single-season record for touchdowns (61) and obliterated Slippery Rock single-season records for completions (322), passing yards (4,460), passing touchdowns (52) and total offense (5,160).
Roland Rivers Was the QB at Penn State’s Pro Day
Since then Rivers has worked diligently toward his dream of playing in the NFL. Most notably, he had the chance to display his skills at Penn State’s Pro Day, where he was the only quarterback on hand and threw passes for tight end Pat Freiermuth, who the Steelers selected in the second round of the 2021 Draft. He also had a chance to participate in Villanova’s Pro Day on March 6.
Yet he went undrafted, despite pre-draft meetings with the Detroit Lions, Philadelphia Eagles and Cleveland Browns.
“I’m not sure there are words to describe how happy I am for Roland,” said Shawn Lutz, head coach of The Rock football team, in the above-referenced article at rockathletics.com. “His NFL dreams were put on hold a little bit by the changes brought on by the pandemic, but he just kept working his tail off over the last year hoping for an opportunity. To have him getting his chance in the NFL, and to have it coming with the Steelers and coach Mike Tomlin is just so special for him and our program.”
Over two years as Slippery Rock’s starting quarterback, Rivers posted a perfect 14-0 record in Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference play, went 23-3 overall and led SRU to at least the quarterfinal round of the Division II playoffs in each season.
Rivers, a Georgia native, began his career at Division II Valdosta State but tore the labrum in his throwing shoulder in November 2016. The injury forced him to miss all of 2017, after which he transferred to Slippery Rock.
He is expected to report to the Steelers on May 14 along with the rest of Pittsburgh’s rookies.
The last Slippery Rock player to play in the NFL was running back Wes Hills, who appeared in one game for the Detroit Lions in 2019, carrying the ball ten times for 21 yards while scoring two touchdowns.
The Devlin ‘Duck’ Hodges Story
While it’s unlikely that Rivers’ NFL career will gain any traction, it’s not impossible. In 2019 Samford University quarterback Devlin ‘Duck’ Hodges parlayed a rookie minicamp invite into a place on Pittsburgh’s 90-man roster.
Ultimately, he was thrust into action in the wake of injuries to starter Ben Roethlisberger and backup Mason Rudolph, and won his first three starts, triggering a brief period of ‘Duck Mania’ in Pittsburgh. Hodges finished his rookie year with 100 completions in 160 attempts for 1,063 yards, with five touchdowns, eight interceptions and a 71.4 passer rating.
The Steelers brought Hodges back for 2020 but he was waived in September after the Jacksonville Jaguars released quarterback Josh Dobbs and Pittsburgh re-acquired its former fourth-round pick. But the Steelers signed him to the practice squad just days later, where he remained for the duration of the year.
In January Hodges inked a one-year contract with the Los Angeles Rams, where he will attempt to continue his NFL career.
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