November 24, 2020

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Diamond In The Rough: Chase Rodriguez

Aggressive and ambitious! Chase Rodriguez is a left-guard center a part of the 2021 class at Lubbock-Cooper High School in Lubbock, Texas. Rodriguez has been playing on Lubbock-Cooper’s 5A varsity offensive line since freshman year. Chase Rodriguez measures in at 6’4” and 325 lbs. Outside of football, Chase is on the powerlifting team and throws shot put and discus for track & field. His best bench is 350 lbs. and has a maxed-out squat at 620 lbs. We have Rodriguez rated as a 3-star prospect with a total rating of 6.2/10. Chase has great size,  possesses a clear vision, and displays a lot of aggressiveness on the field. Currently, Rodriguez has a 3.9 GPA; therefore, he is bright and demonstrates strong leadership on the field and in the classroom. Chase Rodriguez has been invited to play in the Blue-Grey All-American and Offense-Defense All-American Bowl Games. Chase Rodriguez is consistently improving his athletic ability and will be an offensive lineman you want to watch this upcoming season.   

How long have you been playing football for?

I think it’s been about twelve or thirteen years. I started as soon as possible. I never played flag football, but as soon as I could start contact-football, I started playing tackle.

Have you always played Left-Guard Center, or did you start playing in a different position? 

So, I started off as a center and I played center through sixth grade. When I started playing for my school in seventh grade, coach moved me to right-guard. I didn’t play left-guard until I was in high school. When I was on varsity, as a freshman, I noticed I was behind two other guys at right-guard. I look over at left-guard and he’s by himself. I was like you know what I rather be second-string left guard than fourth-string right-guard. So, I hopped over and never looked back. 

You take initiative and you’re ambitious – I am here for this! Going into your senior season, what are goals you would like to achieve? They can be individual goals, team goals, or both. 

That’s awesome you said that because I was going over my goals today. So, the biggest goal for the team and myself is making it to the state championship, destroying that team, and getting that ring. Last year, we came so close. We played Aledo. They are the stronghold of 5A in Texas. Everyone in Texas knows who Aledo is and they are an amazing football team. We were leading them at one point – 21-20 – during the fourth quarter and they pulled away at the very end. We had a little taste of state championship and we want it back. I know a lot of people were in that game and they know what it felt like to be that close – to get that whole meal next time. Some minor goals would be improving on any footwork along with getting down our bases and basics; making sure we take care of the little things. One of the things my coach likes to say: “Get the little things right, the big things don’t seem so hard to get.” 

Right and I like how you went in that direction of not only improving yourself, but working together as a team to improve the overall performance. What have you been doing during the coronavirus pandemic to improve your athletic ability?  

It was definitely hard during the first couple of weeks. It was probably the hardest transition because we’re used to the status of being a 5A school and one of the top schools in Texas. We’re used to having facility access, practice time, and being able to go workout whenever we want to. Being stripped of that kind of hurt, but a lot of my teammates were like “okay, if we can’t lift regular weights, then we’re going to go lift what we want.” So, we grabbed as many tractor tires and all we could find. I actually have two, huge tractor tires sitting in my backyard and I flip those daily for about an hour. Then, we worked with our speed ladders. As a lineman, our footwork is key and necessary. We got our footwork going. We would get together, following the legal limit, and we would go over our plays and footwork slowly and break it down. So, whenever we get back, we’re going to be the best offensive lineman in the state of Texas. 

Okay, so if you saw my face right now – my jaw literally dropped in awe. That is amazing! 

Yeah, we didn’t want to sit on our butts. We know a lot of teams were going through the same thing. The hardest thing for me, personally, was getting up every day knowing the next day was going to be the same. It became so repetitive for us that we had to change it up. One day, we’re going to flip tires. The next day, we’re going to be doing ladders. Then the next day – what are we going to do? Let’s switch it up, let’s do some circuits. We got some sledgehammers – let’s hit the tires. Let’s build every muscle we have. Then, we would set aside Saturday or Sunday for film session. We’d grill and watch film. We’re improving any state we can improve. 

I am genuinely amazed by how much your team is invested in getting better through hard work and motivation, creativeness, and dedication even in these very different circumstances we are currently in. So, enlighten my mind a little bit. I notice the way that you’ve been addressing your team – saying we instead of me and ‘my offensive lineman’. Are you one of the team captains on the team? 

I am a team captain. We just named team captains and the thing I like about my offensive lineman is you can approach any junior or even the starting center sophomore – he’s a beast –  and ask them, “Who’s the leader?” They’ll say, “We all are.” There’s no ‘leader’ on the offensive line and that’s what we try to instill in all of the players on our team. You can be a leader without being a captain and that’s the best thing. If we have a team of leaders, we’re never going to be losing because we are all building each other up, especially on the offense line. We’re a unit. So, whenever I refer to them as ‘my offensive lineman’, they are my brothers. They have my back. They are my family.  

So, I am definitely going to ask you this question because I like what we’ve been talking about. Do you consider football to be harder mentally, physically, or both? Why?

Oh, that’s a good question. As an offensive lineman, I’m a bigger guy – probably one of the biggest guys on the field at all times. As hard as it is physically to be running around, pushing people around, and falling on someone, it’s a lot harder mentally because you have to prepare yourself for the game – prepare yourself to do everything right. Then, you also have to tell yourself I’m not going to be 100 percent perfect. So, I can’t be putting myself down because I missed a block on this play, or I stepped the wrong way. It’s about making sure you understand what you did wrong and then proceed to do doing better – improving yourself. I definitely think the mental aspect of the game is harder to grasp because you have all the plays, you have to get over your fears and jitters, and once you’re on the field you have to know what you’re doing, but also be calm. It’s that dangerous extreme with the calm and soothing – you have to be both. You have to be so aggressive, yet you have to calm down, play right and be ready to go. 

Right. You have to maintain that balance because if one thing falls out of balance, then it’s downhill domino effect from there. I absolutely understand it – not from the football perspective, but from another perspective. 

Yeah; of course, because all of it relates to life. That’s what I really love about being a football player, especially at my school. Coach Darden – our head coach* – tries to teach us that yes, we are football team, but we’re also grooming gentlemen. We’re grooming the next adults and learning how to be respectful, young men. It’s not just about football. Football is a part of life, but life is where you’re are going to be. Most people don’t play football in their fifties, but whenever you do get out of football, you’ll know how to act and how to be responsible. For coach and for all of us, that’s what being a football player is: do the right thing whenever no one’s watching and being the model. 

So, would say that’s the aspect of football you love the most or is there something else you love about playing the game? 

I mean, I love hitting people on the field. Right now, it’s hurting me because we’re on a 2-week dead period – no pads and no helmets. Labor Day, we start with helmets and we’re going at it. I love the playing portion, but the influence is what I love even more. You’re going around the school and there are people looking at you – trying to do what you do. I push a chair in because it’s out and then five other people behind me push their chair in because he did that. I pick up trash around my school because I want to make it look good. Six other people see it and they’re like he picked up trash that wasn’t his – I’m going to do what he does. Our coaches are always saying and making sure we know we have multiple eyes on us all of the time because we’re in that spot. Use it for good. I’m going to use my position to help the world, to do good, and be good, whether it be football or my career. 

You want to be a good life role model altogether. Speaking of influencing and having others look up to you, what advice do you have for the younger players who aspire to play a higher, competitive level of football? 

I was just talking to my mom about when I was younger and I was looking up to those guys and anytime someone said, “do this” or “do that”, I’d follow that. So, I love that I finally get to have the opportunity to talk to the younger generation. If I had anything to tell them, it would to have fun with a purpose. Use what you have in order to gain what you can. Use football to gain an education. Use football to gain a career. Use football to gain financial stability – however you need to do it, but use what you have to gain success in the future. So, if I’m taller than everyone else, I’m going to use that to gain something. If I’m stronger than most or something like, I’m going to use that to gain something, but also influence the world to be a better place and have fun. That’s the biggest thing for me. If you’re not having fun in what you’re doing, go find something that will be fun to do. You don’t have to do that thing that is not bringing you genuine joy. If you really want to do it, you’ll be having fun while doing it. 

Honestly, that’s how I approach my life as well. You have to view life not in the way of “oh I got to do this” or “I got to do that” attitude, but in the perspective of “I get to do this” and “I get to do that”.  It makes life way less stressful and more enjoyable. 

Exactly and I love that because I wake everyday around 5 or 6 AM because we have morning workouts. That’s just how it is. I wake up every day saying I get to do this and there are other kids in the school who would love to do this – who would kill for the opportunity to be apart of the football team. So, am I going to take any of this for granted just because I wanted to sleep in for another hour? No. I’m going to get up. I’m going to go workout and it’s going to be a good day because I love this sport and I love what I do. 

You are preaching to the choir over here. Speaking of education, living life to fullest, and everything else we’ve been talking about, what would your teachers say about you as a student?

I think they would say he’s very goofy. I try not to be the class clown though. I do enjoy education very much. I love AP and dual-credit classes because I love the challenge. I think my teachers would say he’s very skilled and very determined. He can go off on tangents at times. I love brining football into the world. I would definitely think they would say he’s determined and does whatever he has to do. 

Now flip that – what would your coaches say about you as a player? 

My offensive coach* would say, in his words: he’s very determined, works hard, and very skilled; will never shy away from a challenge. That applies for the whole offensive lineman. If you put an all-star, all-state defensive tackle in front of us, the offensive line will not back down. We do not back down and I think that comes straight from our coach. Our coach – he would never back down; he has our back. So, we’re never going to back down. We’ll have each other’s backs.

Do you have any hobbies? What do you like to do in your free time, if you have any? 

I really like to take care of my yard. I know it’s kind of weird, but I’m going to be that dad in the future that’s mowing his grass at seven in the morning. I like making sure it’s clean-cut, it looks good, and water correctly, which is kind of hard since at times it is scorching hot in Texas. Occasionally, I’d do a puzzle if I’m really bored. Other than that, I like to keep the yard nice and neat. 

Do you play any other sports besides football? 

Yes ma’am. I do power-lifting and track & field. 

Very nice. What do you do in track and field? 

In track, I throw shot put and discus. Shot put is my forte because it focuses on strength whereas discus is more focused on technique. As the Olympics go on, more people get into shot put and all that. We find new techniques and spinning new rotations. My offensive line coach is also my shot put coach. It’s perfect – I’m always working with him. He’s always doing his research to help us and we’re always learning to get better. 

Okay and what do you do in power-lifting?

We compete. I believe we have four meets until district and then regionals followed by state. Last year was cut short due to Covid, but we already had 8 district qualifiers and 4 state qualifiers. How everything works is you have three lifts to get to your max. We do maximum on squat, bench, and deadlift. You try to get as high as you can on each lift in your weight class. My biggest max on squat was 620 lbs. and my best max on bench was 350 lbs. I’m not 100 percent sure off the top of my head what my best deadlift was, but overall it adds up to around 1500 lbs. 

Tell me more about your gameday routine – how do you hype yourself and focus in? 

So, how gamedays usually start, I’ll wake up around 7 in the morning – 7:30 if I feel like it. We have nothing in the morning for football. We go to school. How school goes for us is we have our periods of class and football in between classes. On gameday, we have a quick walk through. If we have an away game, we pack up all of our equipment. If it’s a home game, we make sure all of our equipment is sound and nothing is broken. Right after school is over, we have a team meal together. After we finish eating, we go into meetings – offensive meetings and position meetings.  Then, we start taping along with getting dress and padded up. After that, we’ll warm up and do our position warmups; come together and run a couple of plays. Then, we go back inside and that’s when we get each other hype. We blast music as loud as possible. By the time Coach Darden gets us going – we get in a circle, lock arms, and start swaying back and forth. He’s gets us hyped up. Thinking about it right now gets me hyped. 

Very nice. Now I want to personally take a trip to Texas this semester to see the Texas’ football culture. What has been your biggest accomplishment while playing football in high school?  

I think the biggest one was making it to the state semi-finals. My sophomore year, we made school history and went undefeated during the season. We made it all the way to the quarter finals before we lost. This year, we made history again and went all the way until we lost in the state semi-finals. That was big for me. 

A little bit random, but if you could switch lives with a collegiate or NFL player for 24 hours, who would you switch with and why? 

I’m a big New York Giants fan and I think I would go with Saquon Barkely. I would love to have one day to experience what it feels like to be a running back. Also, I have loved Saquon Barkely ever since he got out of college because of his character. I believe his character and my character are strongly similar. He doesn’t use his position and platform to talk about himself. He gives credit where credit is due. I think that even though his character is one of an NFL player, he’s still using his position as how I would use my position. 

Personally, where do see yourself playing at on a collegiate level? 

Before, I started varsity football, I saw myself playing at the division possible. University of Florida – I’ve been a Florida gator for my whole life. I have wanted to play for that football team since I was 7 or 8 years old. Seeing myself improve and watching the guys that are committing to University of Florida, I honestly do think I am a Florida football player. I’m going to try to go wherever I can play. Auburn is also a choice as well; both of my sisters go to school at Florida and Auburn. They’re both great places. Yale reached out to me and so did Princeton. If I could get a Yale education, I would choose Yale. Wherever I go, I’m going to be the best there. 

* Chip Darden, Lubbock-Cooper High School’s football Head Coach.  * Lee Hayes, Lubbock-Cooper High School’s football Offensive line Coordinator.