Oklahoma Sooners linebacker Dalton Rodriguez finds success at OU spring game as a walk-on

Rodriguez shine in the Red-White game as a walk-on reserve learning a new position

NORMAN – Oklahoma Sooners linebacker Dalton Rodriguez laughed when he was asked Saturday about how he wound up at linebacker.

“Because I was 220,” he said with a smile.

How he went from Oklahoma offensive line commit to Tulsa defensive end and then eventually serving as a back-up in Saturday’s spring game at the Sooners’ primary pass-rush position is a topic that touches him a little bit deeper than a hearty chuckle.

“Sometimes it was tough but I just had to keep my head on straight and keep working,” Rodriguez said. “I just knew everything would work out one day. I've just got to keep working.”

Rodriguez had an adjustment period of figuring out the Oklahoma coverages when he transferred as a walk-on from the Golden Hurricane. He’d been playing defensive line his whole life, but it didn’t make learning outside linebacker – more specifically, the ‘Jack’ position, which Rodriguez called the perfect position for him – any easier.

He found some success Saturday in the Oklahoma Red-White game.

Rodriguez, playing mostly with the third-team defense, finished with 2.5 sacks, second on the team, and had the game’s only batted pass at the line of scrimmage on a roll-out – even laughing about having the perfect opportunity to put a big hit on Oklahoma transfer quarterback Kyler Murray on the play.

“I had the perfect shot,” said Rodriguez, a former star at Tulsa Union. “I could've killed him, but he's my own player so I can't hurt him.

As a walk-on, Rodriguez has been his own biggest source of encouragement. There’s no one in his ear reminding him every day that he needs to work.

He said he has to “get it” on his own.

It hurt his “soul” last year to not play, but Rodriguez feels day-by-day that he is making improvement – maybe enough to see the field for the Sooners.

Seeing results Saturday made it a little bit easier.

“It's definitely worth it,” Rodriguez said of the path that has brought him to Norman. “It's a big relief that it's finally paying off. It's been a long road but I got to see the final results, or not the final results, but it's starting to come together.”

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