Football: Anger and work ethic of Gonzalo Rodriguez translates to huge production on field

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By Patrick Dillon @PDillon_SGN

VISALIA – Golden West head coach Paul Preheim has had some talented thousand-yard running backs show off their talent in his wing-T offense in his seven years. In 2015 and 2016, Cristian Canales rushed for 1,329 and 1,042 yards respectively. Sheldon White also rushed for 1,241 yards in 2015.

This season, however, the Trailblazers could be witnessing one of the best running backs in the school’s history —  one who has overcome adversity and already has rushed for more career yards than all who came before him under Coach Preheim. He is Gonzalo Rodriguez.

“Football helps me get away from everything and relax my mind,” said Rodriguez.

In his first two seasons, Rodriguez has rushed for a total of 2,958 yards. Two years ago, he rushed for 1,216 yards followed by 1,742 yards last season. Those yards have led to 37 rushing scores. Already, this year, he has rushed for 232 yards and four touchdowns.

But where does that type of production come from? The answer is two pronged: one is anger and one is work ethic.

The anger comes from growing up without a father figure for the majority of his life; having to see his mom Anna Gonzalez work multiple jobs in order to take care of him and his two sisters year after year.

“It’s always going to be in the back of my mind. It just depends on how I use it,” said Rodriguez.

Rodriguez has learned how to use it to the best of his advantage. Before every drive or play, Rodriguez explained, he thinks about all the anger built up inside him and that gets him pumped. It is that anger that helps him to run harder and makes him tougher to bring down.

“If you are a crazy guy running down the field not a lot of people are going to try and stop you,” said Rodriguez.

Anger is not the only motivator that Rodriguez has harnessed from growing up in his situation. Inspired by his mother’s work ethic, Rodriguez puts as much effort into preparation for game day as he does on game day. His work ethic has had a bigger impact on him becoming the best, and he’s been doing it longer than his two-year varsity career.

At Golden West, there is a zero period weight lifting class that begins at 7 a.m. where the majority of the varsity football team works out. Even before he was able to enroll in the class, Rodriguez started attending it, walking from his house about a mile away every morning.

“[Rodriguez] was a freshman leading our seniors at the time,” said Preheim.

Rodriguez kept remembering what his mother kept telling him: You have to work hard for what you want. So he kept getting up morning after morning to attend a class for which he wasn’t even getting a grade.

Before long, Rodriguez began to improve. The older players took notice and encouraged him with this message: you’ve got to keep doing this if you want to be good.

“I’ve always looked up to them, but I also wanted to always be better than them,” said Rodriguez.

While this might be Rodriguez’s last season, there is no sign of senioritis. He is continuing to perfect his running style by studying what other running backs do, and trying to add those skills to his.

“[Rodriguez] has been one of the most amazing kids that I have ever been associated with,” said Preheim. “As a pure football player, I would put him in the top five I’ve ever coached.”

That is saying a lot considering that while Preheim was head coach of the Hoover Pirates, he coached three players that went to the National Football League (NFL), Eric Kendricks, Mychal Kendricks and Kevin Robinson.

The NFL might be out of the reach for the 5-foot-10 Rodriguez, but if he puts up another thousand-yard season, schools at the next level will come knocking.

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