Na'Ty Rodgers spent his last few weeks at home in Maryland figuring out what to pack for move to South Carolina.
He didn't forget to bring his mean streak.
The four-star freshman offensive lineman climbed 52 spots to No. 181 in the final Rivals250 for the class of 2013, making him the third-highest prospect in USC's class.
His high school playing days wrapped up at the Under Armour All-America Game, where a Rivals.com report said Rodgers "brought a newly found aggressiveness and mean streak, playing 'til the echo of the whistle and getting in at least one scuffle."
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That mean element to his game has always been there, Rodgers said.
"I learned it from some of the guys who showed me how to play the offensive line," he said. "It's something you've got to have to play at the next level. You're going against guys that are the same size or bigger, faster or stronger. The only thing you can beat them with is technique sometimes. "
The toughness comes across more in person at a practice and a game than it does on a highlight reel, Rodgers said.
"I'm trying to take you down. If you're in front of me, I don't want that to be a good thing," he said. "I want someone to think, 'I'm lined up in front of Na'Ty. This isn't about to go well.' At the next level, everybody is going to be that guy, that top rated guy."
Rodgers enrolled at South Carolina in June in time for the first summer semester.
He committed to the Gamecocks on Jan. 21 over Maryland, with Florida State, Washington and Oklahoma also in the mix. The pull to play for the home-state Terrapins was strong.
"There was pressure, but it was easier for me because I've moved multiple times," said Rodgers, who was born in Seattle, moved to Michigan and then to Maryland in the eighth grade. "There's not really a sense of, 'This is where I was born and raised,' It was OK for me to go out and venture to places. That's the reason why my recruitment was a lot of fun. I didn't have a fear of going to California, Washington or Oklahoma or some place down South."
The 6-foot-5 Rodgers was listed at 296 pounds when he signed in February. He has since crossed the 300-pound mark, he said.
He did so by eating better and changing the carbohydrates he takes in, while continuing to hit the weight room. The extra pounds haven't affected Rodgers' mobility, he said. And he wasn't passing on any of his mom's home-cooked meals during his final days at home.
"The main thing was cutting off sodas, chips, fast food, all that kind of stuff, maybe have a smoothie here and there," he said. "You can really feel it in your body. When you don't eat fast food for a good two, three months and you eat it one time, you feel the difference in your body. To be able to feel that right now feels pretty good."
Rodgers said he's really looking forward to working with offensive line coach Shawn Elliott.
"It's hard to find an offensive line coach with a defensive line mentality," Rodgers said. "It's OK with you getting after it and going crazy. I enjoy playing offensive line. Once you start to enjoy it, there's nothing you really can't do. The mean streak has to come with it."