While the game may not have gone exactly as he would have liked, Sahuarita head coach David Rodriguez still cherished the experience of coaching in Friday’s Casino del Sol College All-Star Game in Tucson.
It was Rodriguez’s second year in a row to be invited to coach in the game and things were definitely different the second time around.
Rodriguez was the defensive line coach for this year’s game, a step up from his role last year, when he worked in a secondary role with the offense.
“It was a little imposing at first,” the coach said after the game. “I had kids from Oklahoma, Kentucky, Arkansas, SEC schools.”
“Last year I worked with Coach Nutt on the offense and he pretty much directed all the traffic. This year I’m going through drills with all the scouts around and I’m just trying to make sure I was doing right by the young men, because this was their job interview.”
Over 80 scouts for NFL teams attended the practice sessions and the game, which was won by the West, 40-7 over the Nutt-led East squad. Players came from schools all over the country to showcase their talents in the hopes of getting a chance to play on Sundays in the NFL.
“The week has been fantastic, getting to know all the players, and at halftime we had our own Tanner Fanning get highlighted,” Rodriguez said. Fanning was recognized as a first-team selection for the All-Southern Arizona football team.
“It’s just an amazing opportunity, especially working with the coaches. Pac-12 coaches, SEC coaches, it’s just an amazing experience,” Rodriguez said.
Coaching the older players was very different than coaching the kids at Sahuarita High School.
“They’re bigger and stronger,” Rodriguez said. “They’ve played in bowl games. But at the same time, they make mistakes and they still have apprehensions on rotations, making plays and things like that.”
“There is some commonality in coaching high school kids versus coaching these kids, who I know for a fact, at least a couple of them will be playing on Sundays.”
“They still need to be pushed, still need to be coached, still need to be motivated.”
The East squad threw five interceptions to contribute to the lopsided score.
“That’s most unfortunate,” the coach said. “But just like on Sundays, it comes down to performance. It’s a finite number of reps they are going to get.”
For most of the players, it was likely their last game on the gridiron, as one player told the East squad prior to the game.
“The kid from Navy, Keegan Wetzel, told them, ‘You guys may get another night, but I don’t,’” the coach recalled. Wetzel was reporting for two years of service in the Navy sometime after the game.
“I think in the minds of young men, there is an inexhaustible well of reps, but it isn’t, it’s finite.”
Rodriguez cited two examples from the week to illustrate the point. Mississippi tight end Jamal Mosley apparently blew out his ACL on the East squad’s first drive of the game, and a player from Utah State suffered an injury during one-on-one drills early in the week.
“I feel horrendous for the young man from Ole Miss, and the kid from Utah State popped his patella tendon during practice,” Rodriguez said. “It could have been anyone, but it just so happened to be them.”
“Play every rep like it could be your last one, because it just might be your last play. For some of these guys it just may be there last trip, but for others we may be watching them 365 days from now, playing for a chance to go to the Super Bowl.”
Kevin Duke | 547-9747