When talking with Coach Mark Staten and Coach Dan Roushar about one of the newest members of the Bearcats (Ken Rodriguez) it was clear to see both coaches had a deep reflection about the junior college offensive lineman from Los Angels. After having the chance to speak with him myself, I can understand why they feel this way.
Ken Rodriguez is a "Self Made Man" in the words of Coach Dan Roushar. But while Roushar may be bias about his newest offensive lineman, the story of how Rodriguez has made the journey from highly recruited defensive lineman (Oregon) to two years of junior college over the past three years to reaching his goal of playing Division One Football in a major conference should show why the Bearcats "Self Made Man" is really just that.
The journey taken by players in junior college can be different from many who are looking for their chance of making it to a Division One program. While high school players come in with hype and fans knowing they will be part of the program for four or five years, junior college players look at the small window of opportunity given them and make the choice to either make the most of it or go along for the ride. Ken Rodriguez is not coming to Cincinnati to just go along for a ride over the next two seasons.
The Citrus College offensive tackle knows much work and sweat must be extracted from his body if he wants to reach his goal of winning a championship and experience the goal of playing in a bowl game. He also knows Cincinnati will provide him the chance to reach his goals. Bearcat Insider spoke with the newest Bearcat on Thursday night and got his reactions about the recruiting process being over with and what made the University of Cincinnati the right choice for him.
BI: How does it feel to know you have the recruiting process behind you?
KR: It feels great! It feels like a big rock has been lifted off my shoulders and I can now get ready to go to work with the Bearcats.
BI: What sold you on Cincinnati over any other school you were looking at?
KR: The people and the environment sold me on UC. The coaches really care about you more then just being a football player. You could see they take care of their players and do so with love and affection.
BI: Where do you see yourself fitting in at UC?
KR: Right now I'm just one of many players looking to win a spot along the offensive line. I've got to go in and earn everything I get this year and also the following year, nothing is going to be handed to me and I'm just one of many working towards the same goal of winning a championship.
BI: You are one of two junior college offensive linemen to sign with UC, have you ever met Mario?
KR: I've not had the chance to meet him in person, but we spoke on the phone last night and I have great admiration for him as were both ready to go to work.
BI: Are you a life long Californian and will you have any problems adjusting to the weather?
KR: I'm an O-lineman, I love colder weather because it helps you last longer on the field. I'm sure I'll have to adjust to it, but I'm not too worried about it.
NOTE: At this time Ken asked what the weather was like today in Southwest Ohio. He didn't seem too surprised from my answer of it being in the mid-30.
BI: On your official visit, who was your host?
KR: Nick Davila another California guy was my host. He was a great host and really told me how it was and how the coaches treated junior college players. You could tell Nick is a warm hearted person and I could relate to what he'd gone through over the past year.
BI: How was the visit?
KR: It was great. The food was great and I really enjoyed everything I saw of the city and of the campus. The ride to campus was great coming from the airport. I'm not sure what that highway is but I was impressed coming up to the bridge coming into the city and seeing the view of the city and the stadiums and arena all lined up. It was a great sight. Plus all the people I met were great.
BI: Dan Roushar was your recruiting coach, what made him different then other coaches recruiting you?
KR: I trust Coach Roushar with my life. I have great respect for him and his family. He's got a great family and he took the time to get and know mine during the recruiting process. You can really tell you're not just another number on the football field to Coach Roushar and the other coaches at UC. The staff takes pride in getting to know you and they really care for us.
BI: What High School did you attend?
KR: I attended John A. Rowland High School. It's on the outskirts of LA about 20 minutes from the city in Rowland Heights, California.
BI: Coming out of high school were you recruited by any schools or is that the reason for going to junior college?
KR: I was recruited by Oregon to play defensive line there. I was all set to go there but I had a problem with my core math courses. I didn't take enough math classes and that stopped me going there. I though I needed to take only two math courses and I took Algebra and Geometry. What I needed to do was take another Algebra class to go with the other two.
BI: What are you coming into Cincinnati?
KR: I'm coming in on January 2nd.
BI: Coach Roushar spoke about you doing martial arts, do you still do them?
KR: Yes, my best friend and I started doing them in high school and I used it for more flexibility. We don't do it as much as we use to, but we still do it sometimes.
BI: What did you think about all the new things at UC and about the Big East Conference?
KR: You could see they are taking all the right steps in having everything an athlete will need. The whole thing was awesome. As for the Big East, I'm honored to have the chance to play in it. Being from the West Coast we see a lot of Pac 10 football, but from everything I've seen the Big East is a great conference also.
BI: Coach Roushar spoke that you took a year off from football; did you only play one year of junior college ball?
KR: No, I played two, but I took a year off in between my freshman and sophomore seasons.
BI: What will be the hardest thing to adjust to at Cincinnati?
KR: Being away from my family and friends, but I'll get through it and learn from it.
BI: What is your current size?
KR: I'm 6'3 and have lost about 5-10 pounds. I'm now down to 305.
BI: What do you like to do away from the field of play?
KR: I like to read and play video games. I also enjoy going out with my friends and taking in a movie or going to a theme park.
BI: You now have one just up the road?
KR: Yea, I'll have to check it out this year.
BI: Getting back to Mario, I asked him about you two being roommates, is that something that excites you?
KR: Oh yes, I would love to room with Mario. Two offensive linemen in the same class and together would be great. But nothing has been told to me yet.
BI: You said you ate well on your visit. What type of food do you like?
KR: I love lasagna. That is my favorite food.
BI: What type of music do you listen to?
KR: I really like everything. I'm easy to get along with and just enjoy listening to music.
BI: Coach Roushar spoke about your family. Do you have any brothers or sisters?
KR: I've got an older brother who's in the Navy and stationed in Japan right now and a younger brother.
BI: Did they also play football?
KR: No it's kind of strange. My older brother was a great soccer player and my younger brother is the same way. I'm the biggest person and I'm always asked about what happen when people see me and my family. I'm bigger and have a darker complexion then they do. So people always ask when were together if were really brothers.
BI: Were do you see yourself fitting in at UC?
KR: While I've played tackle in junior college I just want the chance to come in and earn a position. I can go on either side of the offensive line and get down with a right handed or left handed stance or stand up or go down. I will adjust to wherever the coaching staff places me.
I want to thank Ken for taking the time and talking about his recruiting at Cincinnati and his signing on Wednesday. Ken is one of those guys who understand there's more to life than football. He's got great manners and uses them without struggling. Look for more on Ken once he reports and we get into winter conditioning and spring practice.