The True Gem of the 2012 Class
By Matthew Osborne
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Daniel Rodriguez's story will be featured on Dan Rather Reports tonight at 8 EST. on HDNet.
With National Signing Day in the rearview mirror, there are only a handful of uncommitted prospects who will be afforded the opportunity to play college football at the highest level next season. While most prospects in that situation simply hope and pray for a piece of good news regarding their football future, others defiantly refuse to stop working until they see their dreams come to fruition.
If you have never heard of Daniel Rodriguez, he was recently named the 2011 Southern Pigskin Person of the Year. A veteran of the current War on Terror, Rodriguez earned a Bronze Star for Valor for his tremendous display of courage during a bloody encounter in the deserts of Afghanistan. Rodriguez’s story has spread like a wildfire virally, and it will be profiled on Dan Rather Reports tonight at 8 EST on HDNet.
(You can read Rodriguez’s full story here: http://m.southernpigskin.com/ACC/view/the-daniel-rodriguez-story)
Back safely on US soil, there is a solitary thought that occupies Rodriguez’s mind for no less than six hours every single day: upholding a promise that he made to a fallen soldier.
“I told one of the guys over there that I would go play college football,” Rodriguez said.
Keeping a promise that he made to a fallen comrade is of the upmost importance to Rodriguez, but it certainly is not the only reason that he spends an average of six hours a day working toward his goal of playing slot receiver for a college football program. He has always been captivated by the sport, and he is driven to fulfill a lifelong dream that seemed like a long shot just a few years ago.
Never lacking in motivation, Rodriguez has started, and maintained, a workout routine that seems more fitting for a prospective Army Ranger than it does for a person attempting to play college football. Despite taking a full course load at a community college in Virginia, Rodriguez always makes sure he finds time to complete his vigorous workout.
“It starts at 6 am,” Rodriguez explained of his daily routine. “I’m up in the morning, so by 7, I’m out the door. From 7:30 to 9:30, I do power training, which is Olympic lifting, tire flipping, squats and lot of resistance workouts. From there, I go to a field, and from about 10:15 to 11:30, I’ll do speed drills, training, running form, 40-yard dashes, cone drills and route running. From there, I’ll go to my classes, which is about three hours worth of classes. After my classes, I’ll go back to the field and run strictly routes. I try to do about 150-200 routes. After that, I take off and do homework. At night, I do one more speed training in my basement. So, I’m in the gym about three times, for an average of about six hours a day.”
Rodriguez’s remarkable work ethic, leadership and overall character traits have made him a popular commodity to college coaches. He has been in contact with coaches at Virginia, Virginia Tech, Oklahoma State and Georgia Southern, and is hoping that other schools will enter the picture as well. Although the recruiting process has unfolded slightly slower for Rodriguez thanks to his unique situation as a combat veteran and college transfer, that has given him a chance to take his time with this important decision.
“All of the coaches so far have seemed very open and very genuine,” he commented. “I am not really leaning toward any school right now. I really like all of the coaches that I have talked to, and I am open to listen to any other coaches who may come calling.”
While the intangibles that Rodriguez will bring to his future college program are clearly visible to anyone who knows anything about his story, do not make the mistake of thinking that he simply intends to be a player used for motivational purposes at the collegiate level. Rodriguez was a standout performer for his high school team, and he has improved leaps and bounds from where he was athletically as a high school senior. He has consistently been timed at 4.58 seconds in the 40-yard dash. In addition, he also boasts a 34-inch vertical jump, can bench press 225 pounds 10 times, squats 420 pounds and runs the shuttle in under 4.2 seconds.
“On the field, I strongly believe that I can be an impact player,” Rodriguez said of his abilities. “As a slot receiver, I run very sharp routes. I work on my hands daily and I am very confident in them. I am more fearless than words can describe because I have that attitude where, being shot at and actually being hit with a round, it kind of relates to me having that relentless side effect that I do. There’s nothing that I can’t overcome. Once I get an opportunity, I think my coach will see that I am more than just a story and a PR move; I can play football.”
Having “literally killed to play football again”, Rodriguez doesn’t really see himself as all that different from any other person with aspirations of playing college football. Despite his unique and heroic story, Rodriguez says that his goals for his college football experience are basically the same as anybody else.
“I mean, I’m a winner. For me, I guess a perfect world would just be getting an opportunity to play and win games. I want to win a conference championship and win a big bowl game. I also want to have closure for what I set out to do, both as an athlete and a friend. In a perfect world, that would come from helping a team win, by helping through my story, my dedication and my work ethic. I want to better the people around me so we become champions.”
While there is still a great deal of uncertainty surrounding Rodriguez’s recruitment, there is no question that he is the type of young man that will be a welcome addition to any football program. All that’s left to do is sit back and see which lucky program lands the gem of the 2012 class.