INDIANAPOLIS — When Luke Rhodes originally signed with the Indianapolis Colts in October 2016, he was a linebacker trying to make his mark on special teams.
Less than three years later, Rhodes has made a clear mark on Indy's special teams — but in a completely different way.
Asked to give long snapping a try during the 2017 offseason, Rhodes has thrived. And today, the team rewarded him with a contract extension; terms of the deal were not immediately announced.
Rhodes, who turns 27 in December, was a talented linebacker at William & Mary, where he started 45 of 47 games and finished with 341 tackles (20 for a loss) with 5.5 sacks, 19 passes defensed, six forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and one interception, earning First-Team All-Colonial Athletic Association honors three times.
He was originally signed by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers as an undrafted free agent in May 2016, but was released by the team during final cuts that September. About a month later, Rhodes was signed to the Colts' practice squad, and he was promoted to the active roster for the final four games of the regular season, registering one special teams tackle.
Heading into the 2017 offseason, however, Rhodes was asked if he would consider competing for the team's long snapper job, despite the fact he hadn't snapped since high school. In the Colts' very first preseason game that year, Indy found itself punting out of its own end zone; Rhodes delivered a perfect strike to punter Rigoberto Sanchez, and it's been smooth sailing ever since.
In his two seasons as the Colts' long snapper, Rhodes — who had four special teams tackles in 2018 — has combined with Sanchez (who was signed to his own extension on June 4) and kicker Adam Vinatieri to form one of the top special teams trios in the league.
"You can't underestimate how smooth that operation and how clean that operation is," Colts head coach Frank Reich said last October. "It's a game of split seconds. 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. I mean it's just, 'Give me a tenth of a second longer to look at that ball and I am going to go up five percentage points in accuracy, and that's huge."