|No. 81, 18|
|Date of birth||January 16, 1978|
|Place of birth||Rialto, California|
|NFL draft||2000 / Round: 1/ Pick 29|
|2004–2006||Toronto Argonauts (CFL)|
|2011||Wenatchee Valley Venom (IFL)|
Rodney (R.) Jay Soward (born January 16, 1978) is a former gridiron football wide receiver.
He burst onto the college football scene with a 4-touchdown game vs. UCLA in his freshman season with USC. Despite Soward's superior skills, he never reached his potential in his USC career, ending his tenure with 32 touchdowns in four seasons.
The Jacksonville Jaguars took him with their first-round selection (29th overall) in the 2000 NFL Draft. Soward did not take the pressure of being a first-round selection very well. "I think the hardest part for me was dealing with all the pressure after getting drafted," he recalls. "I didn’t play well my first year so people were on me a lot. I wish I would have went to New Orleans in the second round. I wish I hadn’t ever been a first round draft pick. I felt that New Orleans had a better staff to suit me at that time. I think being with those guys would have changed my future in the NFL."
After wearing out his welcome with the Jags in training camp, before playing in his first game under head coach Tom Coughlin (who had gone so far as to send a limousine, at the team's expense, to pick up Soward every day for practice, just to make sure he would come), he was suspended several times by the NFL for violating the league's substance abuse policy. He has not filed for re-instatement since his last suspension. Though many media outlets attributed the suspension to marijuana, his suspension came as a result of alcohol abuse. "I can honestly say I was an alcoholic at that time in my life," Soward recollects. "That’s why I’m not playing in the NFL, because I was an alcoholic at that time."
After entering the NFL's substance abuse program, Soward was critical about its effectiveness. "It was horrible counseling. I’ve been in every rehab centre known to man," said Soward. "They even had the nerve to put me in rehab in Miami, the drug capital of the world. I don’t really think the rehabilitation process is very good for players down there. I think it is more of a disciplinary kind of rehabilitation which doesn’t teach anybody anything. For me, the more they took away from me the more it made me want to drink, the more it made me want to feel depressed, the more it made me want to feel bad about me."
Soward ended his lone season in the NFL appearing in 13 games, and caught 14 passes for 108 yards with no touchdowns.
As an Argonaut, his primary role in the offense was as a fly route receiver that stretched the defense and whose long receptions usually translated into touchdowns. This was reflected in his touchdown to reception ratio of 10:39 (as of August 19, 2006). The only drawback to Soward's Argonaut tenure has been maintaining his health for a full season.
In his first year with the team, Soward went on to win a Grey Cup Championship.
In 2005, Soward and the Argonauts were unable to repeat as back-to-back champions, losing the Eastern Division Championship to the Montreal Alouettes. In that game, Soward was dubiously remembered for an overzealous touchdown celebration. After scoring a touchdown, he ran into a concession stand setup behind the end zone, grabbed a bag of popcorn, and shared it with a teammate and nearby fans. Though his touchdown helped to put his team up 14-0 after the first quarter, the Argos got outscored 33-3 for the next three quarters. That led many to believe that Soward's timing for his celebration stunt was not only premature, but a catalyst that fired up the Alouettes. "It was a very spontaneous thing and I apologize to the people of Toronto if they feel I took away our opportunity, but I was just making an atmosphere where people can enjoy the game and see something different."
In 2006, when asked about the popcorn incident prior to a rematch against the Alouettes, Soward stated that he felt the criticism against him was unjust and that he would do it again if the opportunity presented itself. He told Los Angeles radio station KLAC that he got the popcorn idea from seeing Keyshawn Johnson do it after scoring a touchdown when he was playing football for West Los Angeles College. During the East Division semi-final that year, Soward caught the game winning touchdown to help the Argonauts advance to the division finals which they went on to lose vs. the Alouettes in Montreal.
On December 15, 2006, Soward was released by the Argonauts. Since then he has been making a living in repairing televisions and working in a warehouse.