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Rodriguez Is Coming Up Big

Sunny Hills junior wants to contribute on offense and defense this season.


FULLERTON — There is a common mistake people make about Adam Rodriguez.

Because of his compact size--5 feet 9, 160 pounds--many figure Rodriguez will be easy pickings on the football field.

Sunny Hills' opponents often made that assumption last season, and most of the time they regretted it. A solid defender and tackler at defensive back, Rodriguez was a unanimous Freeway League first-team selection as a sophomore.

This season Rodriguez, 16, is part of a resurgent Lancer squad that is primed to challenge for the league championship after finishing second last season. And Rodriguez would like to expand his responsibilities and put in time at running back.

"I like [offense]. I feel more comfortable there," Rodriguez said. "And if they give me enough carries I could show people that I can run the ball."

Sunny Hills Coach Tim Devaney has promised Rodriguez he will play offense this year. But defense should be the Lancers' primary strength, and Devaney does not want one of his key players beaten up.

"He will play some running back, but that's where you worry about his health," Devaney said. "His heart's as big as his body, but you can get a kid hurt going both ways. But we won't have that luxury of platooning."

Whatever happens, Rodriguez wants it to happen at Sunny Hills. The youngest of five children, he is the third son to play football there.

"I've been involved with Sunny Hills High football since 1987," Rodriguez said. "I became a ballboy then. I grew up with the team, and now I'm playing on it. It's been a good experience.

"I can't imagine being anywhere else. My dad, wondering if I would get enough chances to run the ball, asked me if I wanted to go somewhere else. I agree with him sometimes that they may not give me as many opportunities to run as I'd like, but I still wouldn't be comfortable playing anywhere else."

Rodriguez started playing football in the seventh grade, and took to the game so much that he quit playing soccer, although he still plays baseball.

After his freshman year he was added to the varsity. "That woke me up quite a bit," Rodriguez said. So did being the target that most opponents figured they could exploit.

But Rodriguez refused to give in.

"I knew that going into every game that teams were going to come after me," he said. "When we played La Mirada, a big [running] team, they sent the pulling guards right at me. That was a good learning experience.

"At the beginning of a game, receivers think they can manhandle me, just throw me around. But I'm a pest; I'm not going to go away. After awhile they don't seem so cocky and try to focus on what they're doing. If they think they're going to overpower me, I usually show them that's not the way it's going to be."

The best example of Rodriguez's tenacity came last season during a game against Sonora. In the final minutes, with Sunny Hills ahead, 21-17, the Raiders sent 6-3 wide receiver Eric Bondurant out on a deep route. Rodriguez was momentarily beaten on the play, but he made up the ground and outjumped Bondurant for the ball to preserve the Lancers' upset victory.

"He played well the whole night," Sonora Coach Mark Takkinen said. "He also had two other knockdowns, one in the end zone on a third-down play where we threw a fade pass in the corner. Again it was on Bondurant.

"We were hoping to take advantage of the size difference. But he's real good athlete. And in high school, size is not as important as it is in college. You measure a kid by ability and heart, and he has both."

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