High-school athletes have limited ways of separating themselves from their competition.
For senior Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep football player Cristian Rodriguez, he’s found ways to do so on and off the field.
“You couldn’t find a nicer young man who is more dedicated on the field and in the classroom,” coach Gary Gregory said of his senior.
Rodriguez defines a student-athlete, and represents Notre Dame’s philosophies in doing so.
“He is what Notre Dame Prep is all about,” Gregory said. “He is a multisport athlete and great in the classroom.”
Along with being a two-year varsity football player, the 6-foot-4, 215-pound tight end plays on the varsity basketball team as well.
In 2012-13, Rodriguez played in 24 of 28 games while recording 102 points and 73 rebounds on the court.
But none of those stats matter to him, as he believes he can always improve.
Just like his favorite athlete — Arizona Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald.
“He’s all about working hard and being the best you can be,” Rodriguez said.
Gregory says that defines his hybrid senior precisely.
“He’s so locked in and focused at all times,” his coach said. “He’s an absolute silent leader.
“He’s looked up to by not only young players, but by his fellow seniors as well.”
Gregory remembers the first time he saw the current role model in freshman football.
“As a freshman, I thought ‘here’s a good player, but everyone looks good,’ ” Gregory said. “But his growth (physically and mentally) has been the biggest change, and his willingness to do anything.”
Rodriguez credits part of his development to current ASU tight end Grant Martinez.
As a Notre Dame senior last season, Martinez took Rodriguez under his wing.
“I looked up to Grant and I felt the positive energy he had,” Rodriguez said. “He really pushed me to improve on my skills and pushed me to be a better leader on the football field.”
Gregory, like many coaches, will lose another influential leader this season, but he sees Rodriguez’s future being bright in whatever he does.
“He’s been in the program for four years (and) he’s improved as he’s gone along,” he said. “He has a real chance to play college football.”