Feeling It

As West Virginia's players and coaches streamed across the field following the 41-39 triple overtime win over Rutgers, there was an unexpected participant following in their tracks.

North Bergen's Evan Rodriguez, who was making his second consecutive trip to the WVU campus, joined in the celebration after Mike Teel's fourth down pass was batted away by Vaughn Rivers.

"I wasn't expecting to get that caught up in the game, but the whole atmosphere was just great," said Rodriguez, who was one of the flurry of commitments to join the West Virginia program in the past few days. "I had a lot of fun with the players, and it was a great game and I had a great time. Now I am a part of that family, and I can't wait to get started there."

Rodriguez, an all-state free safety at North Bergen High School, saw West Virginia's win over Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, but wasn't aggressively recruited by the Mountaineers until late in the recruiting process. At least, late in terms of how nationally-recognized players are now courted. However, as noted by more than one sage, it's not how you start, it's how you finished, and WVU crossed this particular finish line first.

"WVU came in a little late on me," Rodriguez recounted. "Last June Coach Hand called me and told me he was coming to my game, and they offered me on the spot. I had seen them in the Sugar Bowl and thought, ‘This team is very good, and it's still young. I could be a part of that.' I didn't have any ties or know anyone down there before they started recruiting me. But I knew they were playing pretty well."

At the time he was on campus, Rodriguez didn't realize that he would be part of a swell of commitments that would reach six over a five-day period. Once he made his choice, however, he learned that he was part of an unusually large group.

"I talked to one of the commitments there, Brandon Hogan and he told me that the players and fans were so great," Rodriguez recounted. "After my visits, I looked at it the same way. A lot of the fans knew who I was, and they were very friendly. I just felt very good about it."

Rodriguez, noted for his hard hitting and aggressive run support from the free safety position, is the latest in a large group of athletic defensive secondary players. It's clear that West Virginia is bolstering its roster at those key positions, which have great effect on the success of the 3-3-5 defense. Rodriguez, who covers a lot of ground from his position in the back of the defense, is confident that his pass coverage skills will hold up well too.

"We didn't face a whole lot of passers, but anytime we faced a top receiver they didn't score on us," he said with evident pride. "I played Duval Kamara from Hoboken High School, and I had four interceptions against them in three years. They never beat me for a touchdown."

Rodriguez has played basketball in the past, but is not doing so this year so he can concentrate on getting ready for his college career. He plans to major in sports management.

"I don't want to risk it," he said. "I just want to work and prepare for college."

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