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KNOXVILLE,TN - MARCH 22, 2016 - Infielder Jordan Rodgers #7 of the Tennessee Volunteers during the game between Tennessee Tech Golden Eagles and the Tennessee Volunteers at Lindsey Nelson Stadium in Knoxville, TN. Photo By Craig Bisacre/Tennessee Athletics

Jordan Rodgers established three goals for his senior baseball season at Tennessee after his name was not called in the 2016 Major League Baseball draft.

He wanted to make the Cape Cod summer league all-star team, earn all-SEC honors and be selected in the top five rounds of this year's draft.

Tuesday brought the Bartlett, Tenn., native impressively close to completing the trifecta.

The Atlanta Braves selected Rodgers with their sixth round pick on Tuesday, capping the third baseman's rapid rise through baseball's amateur ranks.

"I told my best friend and my parents that I thought I was a little more valuable than a mid-teen round pick," Rodgers said in a phone interview Tuesday, recalling the 2016 draft. "And I had a little school left. So I told my advisor, 'I'm coming back to school' and I watched the last twenty rounds, every single pick, to use it as motivation."

The motivation jolted Rodgers to the Cape Cod all-star game, followed by a team-best .322 batting average for Tennessee in 2017 as he completed the second goal: earning first-team all-SEC honors.

Rodgers was the first Tennessee player selected in this year's draft, which continues today with rounds 11-40. The Houston Astros selected former Tennessee pitcher Kyle Serrano in the tenth round.

Rodgers said he is expecting to sign with the Braves at SunTrust Park on Thursday. When he puts pen to paper, it will complete a journey to the professional ranks that seemed unlikely after his freshman season with the Volunteers.

The former Memphis University School standout played in only 11 games as a freshman, going 3-for-23 at the plate before a summer league coach in Alaska named Ben Taylor helped Rodgers regain his confidence.

"He kind of woke me up in a way," Rodgers said. "He asked me, 'what are you doing, kid? You're wasting time and wasting talent. Wake up.' From that point forward, I started to believe in myself and realized I was a good player and I definitely belong. Sophomore year, I cracked the lineup in right field, junior year I became an every day starter and senior year, here we are. So it's just a matter of having that edge on the field. It took me a while to find that."

Rodgers grew up rooting for the New York Yankees. But for some reason, he began loading up on Atlanta Braves apparel in high school.

"I don't know if I just started to like them or what," Rodgers said. "But any MLB gear I have right now is actually Braves. So it's kind of funny how that works."

The Kansas City Royals and Toronto Blue Jays also expressed interest in drafting Rodgers, he said. But Tuesday morning he received several phone calls from a Braves representative, culminating with a promise that he would be the team's next selection.

For a moment, it seemed as though Rodgers might be selected in the fifth round as he watched a draft broadcast from home with his parents and best friend.

"But the live stream was delayed," Rodgers said. "So when the guy tells me, 'you're going to be our next pick, guaranteed,' and the Braves are literally about to come up. We get videoing and, boom, it's not me. We waited thirty more picks and there it was."

The little bit of extra waiting was OK after many years of hard work.

"After my freshman year," Rodgers said, "I wasn't thinking about being a sixth round pick."

Contact staff writer David Cobb at dcobb@timesfreepress.com.

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