“When I first got here it was more of a mindset that it is okay to talk about loving football and making the commitment,” Rodriguez said. “I think we had a lot of guys that liked football, but we didn't have a lot of guys that loved it.
“I think we still have a couple of guys that like it, but I think we have most of them that love it. This is such a hard sport, you have to put so much extra work in and the work that you do put in that is required is not fun.
“You have to embrace that part of it and want to be an elite athlete at the highest level.”
The difficulty in finding players that truly love football is not something that is unique to Arizona.
“That was a different mindset than they had here, but that is a different mindset that a lot of programs are struggling with, particularly on the west coast,” Rodriguez said.
“I think there are so many other things to do and it is such a happy place because of the weather. My happiness is based on winning and I want the players to have the same mindset.”
Rodriguez believes that the easiest way to judge whether or not a player loves the game is the amount of work he puts in.
“What we require they are going to do,” he said. “There are different levels of commitment. There are guys are compelled, committed, and guys that are compliant. We want everybody to be compelled.”
When asked for clarification, Rodriguez was quick to point to two current players.
“You could tell the Scooby Wrights, Reggie Gilberts, guys that are truly compelled, because they are there when they have to be and then they are there when they don’t have to be,” he said.
“When you see them an extra 20 or 30 minutes a week in the film room or weight room, you know they love football.”
In addition, that love for the game would show up when Arizona found itself in a close contest.
“We tell them to play all the way to the end, but a lot of times that is just hollow words,” Rodriguez said. “For our guys, they really did that. They really did play all the way until the end. I think that is why we were able to win a couple close ones.”