Rod Streater’s motivation comes from his mother, Darlene, who told him to remain encouraged and not to get down on himself two years ago after he suffered a season-ending foot injury while playing for the Raiders.
How inspirational was that message? It was delivered while Darlene was dying from breast cancer. She passed away less than a month later.
“She told me to not to give up and keep fighting,” Streater said. “I do it for her.”
Streater said he thinks about his mother often as he impresses the Chiefs in his first training camp. The fifth-year pro is having a solid camp at wide receiver, working with the starters over the last several days in the absence of injured Albert Wilson.
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After losing Darlene, Streater raised money for cancer research through the Rod Streater Foundation, which was founded in 2014 to inspire local youths and provide them with opportunities that promote a healthy lifestyle, a technology culture and the arts.
Bay Area kids were the beneficiaries, and Streater has brought the charity to Kansas City. Less than two months after signing with the Chiefs in March, Streater was in Gordon Parks Elementary working with students.
“I feel like every NFL player has a platform to give back,” Streater said.
So Streater does. He was one of the most active volunteers with the Raiders and expects to be the same with the Chiefs, as a tribute to his mother.
“She was so positive,” Streater said. “She always had a positive vibe around her.”
Streater brings that feeling to the Chiefs, seeking to build depth at the position when he signed. He’s played outside and in the slot, which is where he lined up originally in Oakland and had a fine rookie season in 2012 with 584 yards and three touchdowns.
The next season was better with 888 yards on 60 receptions and four touchdowns. The broken foot blunted his progress, and he spent most of 2015 on the inactive list watching the likes of Amari Cooper and Michael Crabtree put up big numbers. Streater became a free agent after the season.
“Injuries happen,” Streater said. “And through adversity you learn about yourself. The recovery process helped me become a better player just by watching others.”
Now others are watching him.
“Rod’s done a phenomenal job,” said Jeremy Maclin, the Chiefs’ top wide receiver in 2015. “We’ve asked him to play outside, we’ve moved him to the slot and I think he’s a very intelligent guy. He’s picked up on the playbook really well.”
That’s what caught the eye of quarterback Alex Smith. When Streater arrived for OTAs, he had the playbook knowledge of a Chiefs veteran.
“He doesn’t blink,” Smith said at the time. “He’s prepared. He’s done his studying, his preparation.”
Streater’s work ethic was evident in his college days at Temple in a run-oriented offense that featured current Jets and former Ravens running back Bernard Pierce. In two years with the Owls, Streater had 49 receptions for seven touchdowns. He went undrafted.
“I was hoping to get drafted, but just getting in the league, I was thrilled about that,” Streater said. “I wanted a chance to show what I could do.”
His NFL debut game was eventful. Streater started, lost a fumble to end the Raiders’ first possession and later caught a touchdown pass and scored on two-point conversion.
He’s looking for an active time in Kansas City, off the field with his charity work and on starting Saturday with the Chiefs’ preseason opener against the Seahawks at Arrowhead Stadium.
“I’ve had good years and a rough year,” Streater said. “Now it’s a new start for me.”