Great Expectations

Healthy Rodriguez building off special sophomore season


Alyeska Zamora/Rider Media

Jacob Rodriguez has shined in his first two games as Rider’s quarterback his junior year.

Meghan Helton, Reporter

Blood, sweat, tears. All shed for the love of the game held so closely to the hearts of the  Rider football players. This love is no different for the Raiders’ quarterback, Jacob Rodriguez.

Last year at this point, an injured Rodriguez stood restlessly watching from afar. He paced endlessly, cheering for his teammates and learning all he could about the game. Exiled to the sidelines was new for the team’s star player.

“My brothers were out there, everyone I grew up with was out there playing,” Rodriguez said. “I just felt helpless. It’s way easier being out there.”

Now healthy and hungry for more after a state semifinal run, Rodriguez still encourages his teammates, coaches them and builds unshakable connections. Only this time, he’s doing it from the field. 

The pressure and high expectations will accompany Rodriguez when Rider plays against Amarillo today at Memorial Stadium. But there’s no greater pressure than what Rodriguez puts on his own shoulders. 

“He does that to himself. He feels like he is, single-handedly, the reason we win or lose games, and that’s not true,” Rider coach Marc Bindel said. “The truth is, it’s a team game, and he’s a big reason for our success. He doesn’t need to put that kind of pressure on himself, you know. It’s a team sport.”

Last year, Rodriguez missed four games with a foot injury suffered in the season opener. Rider lost all of those as they struggled to score, averaging less than six points per game.

Once Rodriguez returned, the Raiders became more explosive and confident. They won eight of their final 10 games, which led them to the state semifinals. 

Confidence is a quality Rodriguez also has more of this year. With his health restored and more experience under his belt, the team is more at ease when Rodriguez is on the field.

Rodriguez has made strides passing as a junior, throwing for 385 yards and four touchdowns against Boswell and Azle. He has improved his completion percentage by double digits this year while still being a dangerous runner. 

“His vision, being able to read his keys on the past plays and then if there’s his cover taken he takes off running,” junior receiver Ranse Radtke said about Rodriguez’s improvement. “He brings leadership to us. He’s just kinda of the leader. Everyone follows by him; he leads by example; he just does the right thing.”

Rodriguez also feels like he has changed his style of leading this season. 

“I just had to find a way to motivate and a way to keep encouraging,” said Rodriguez, who already has an offer from Kansas State to play college football. “Last year, I was more of a serious kind of guy because I was surrounded by these seniors, and they all knew what to do. It was like, ‘Well, what’s a sophomore to tell them what to do?’ 

“And now we have we have the other guys and the upperclassmen being more vocal and just always giving positive reinforcement.” 

With Rodriguez healthy and playing again, there is always a risk for another injury. That’s not something the coaching staff or Rodriguez are concerned with right now. 

“But he’s right, you can’t worry about getting injured and play hard. And then, if you don’t play hard, that’s when you get hurt,” Bindel said. “So, you just have to play. Let the chips fall where they may.”