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San Diego High School Player of the Week : Rodriguez Gives Team Its Punch

September 24, 1986|JEFFREY MILLER | Times Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — When Luis Rodriguez showed up for the first day of football practice at Montgomery High School last month, Coach Steve Summers was disappointed.

Summers hoped that Rodriguez, a junior linebacker, had spent the summer lifting weights. He didn't.

"He's a real physical specimen anyway," Summers said, "and if he'd only worked out over the summer he'd be something."

However, the 5-foot 11-inch, 210-pound Rodriguez has since dispelled doubts that he can pack a punch. After a strong showing in Montgomery's season-opening loss to Santana, Rodriguez was a key factor in last Friday's 20-14 victory over Mount Miguel. He made two sacks and recovered two fumbles.

"Anytime somebody's involved in that many key plays, he's a key factor in the game," said Mount Miguel Coach Gary Cooper. "He's really a good young player."

And Rodriguez's plays had an effect on the game.

"They were all important," Summers said. "All of them put us in pretty good field position."

However, Rodriguez said field position was not on his mind at the time.

"I was too hyper to think about that," he said. "I was just executing."

Said Summers: "He came out against Santana and sort of unleashed himself against those guys. Santana, I think, was in a state of shock. A couple of times, their running backs looked like they got hit by some kind of train."

That game was important for Rodriguez because it was his first playing inside linebacker, and only his third varsity game.

"I build my defense around the two inside linebackers," Summers said. "I don't put them back there if they can't play."

Rodriguez admitted feeling some pressure in his debut.

"The first game is always intense," he said. "I really had butterflies before the game. . . . But from my point of view, I played better my last game (against Mount Miguel). I was more intense."

Now, Rodriguez is combining that intensity with his coach's admonition to do more weight training. Each morning before school, he begins his day with an hour of lifting. It is all part of the learning experience for the 16-year-old, who never played organized ball before going out for the junior varsity last year.

"As far as just the physical tools, Luis is a real talented kid," Summers said. "Right now, he's just doing it with what God gave him. He's getting better and better at playing the game. Combine that with the weights and I don't know of anything that's going to be able to stop him. In three or four games, people are really going to start taking notice."

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