Just talking about the opportunity brought Froilan Rodriguez to tears. For four years of his high school football career, Rodriguez had been carrying Desert Mirage on his back. It was time for someone else to lend a hand.
The ceremony for Rodriguez signing his national letter of intent to play defensive end next year at Western New Mexico was held in an office at his high school a day after the hoopla from the official National Signing Day had ended, but you wouldn’t have known it from talking to Rodriguez, looking at the pride on his coaches’ and teachers’ faces and how he was mobbed by classmates afterwards.
“Froilan is a great kid and a hard worker,” Desert Mirage coach Jeff Tebelak said. “He embodies everything this football program is about. He’s a great student, great player, great person in the community. It’s been great having him and his athletic ability and seeing his stature change and the greatness that he brought out there.”
Rodriguez said he’d been talking to other schools even before the Mustangs contacted him in December, but they were the only ones to follow through and give him an offer to play football at the next level. Although Rodriguez was hoping and even expecting to receive more offers before he had to put pen to paper, he said head coach Adam Clark did plenty to convince him to come to Silver City, N.M., and the Division II program.
“He sounded very convincing. He works for the players and not for the money, and I think that really pushed me toward their program,” Rodriguez said.
But the convincing doesn’t make leaving home any easier. Rodriguez was fine talking about football, both past and future, but when asked about the relationships he was leaving behind, he started to get emotional.
Even though the Rams haven’t always been successful at piling up wins on the field, it’s clear the senior friends and his biggest fan – his mom – made his time in Thermal playing nearly every position on the field more than memorable.
“I’m really going to miss just looking at the players around me who have grown,” he said. “It was amazing and really pushed me to become a better person.
“But I’m going to miss my mom the most.”