Rodriguez brings positivity to LV

After 11 years coaching football, two-time cancer survivor Oscar Rodriguez is the new defensive coordinator for the La Verne football team. Rodriguez tells his players, “football is easy, life is hard.” Given the opportunity to work with higher division teams, after a second bout of cancer, he was drawn to La Verne for the people. / photo by Noel Cabrera
After 11 years coaching football, two-time cancer survivor Oscar Rodriguez is the new defensive coordinator for the La Verne football team. Rodriguez tells his players, “football is easy, life is hard.” Given the opportunity to work with higher division teams, after a second bout of cancer, he was drawn to La Verne for the people. / photo by Noel Cabrera

Kaila Williams
Staff Writer

The alarm clock rings. It is 6 a.m. Most of us are still in bed.

For the La Verne football staff it is the start of the day, and for Oscar Rodriguez it is the start of his first season as the new defensive coordinator.

His main goal: build the La Verne football team and win.

Rodriguez was hired in June by head coach Chris Krich and athletic director Julie Kline.

“Everywhere he’s been he has been a success,” Krich said. “He brings expertise.”

Krich also said that Rodriguez brings new ideas to the program, since he has different perspectives from being part of other football programs.

Rodriguez is usually found in his office watching film and preparing for the week’s game with his players and fellow coaches.

“You put the work in, in order to be competitive and play at a high level,” Rodriguez said.

His impact has immediately been felt by the team and especially by the defensive players.

“He brings discipline and gives us a competitive edge,” junior defensive back Connor Truhitte said.

Sophomore defensive back Michael Hill points out that Rodriguez’s coaching has made the defensive team a lot tougher.

“He definitely gave the defense an identity and a voice,” Hill said.

Long before he started making contributions for La Verne, he was just your normal kid from the Midwest.

Rodriguez got his start in a small Kansas town as the son of immigrants looking to achieve the American Dream.

He was born and raised in Liberal, best known as the hometown of Dorothy Gale from “The Wizard of Oz.” Just like in other small towns in the Midwest, football is worshiped as a religion.

Though Rodriguez admits he was a better baseball player, his love for football was greater and he started playing football in the second grade.

“I grew up in a football town. That’s probably why I am who I am,” he said.

Rodriguez went on to play college football as a safety and was an All-American at Fort Hayes State.

His years as a player and 11 years of coaching, previously at Washburn University, Baker University and Emporia State, have made Rodriguez the coach he is today.

Though Rodriguez thought his career would be coaching high school football, it all changed when he played in college.

Recruiting is where Rodriguez found his niche and it is what he is best known for.

“Recruiting to me is about relationships and building trust,” he said.

Rodriguez is here to help not only the football team as a whole but players individually grow as a person. Helping young men grow personally has been a passion of his and it is evident in his players.

“He’s serious but personable,” Hill said.

Rodriguez said he has an open door policy, just like the rest of the coaching staff.

Players are free to talk to their coaches about any dilemmas they might have.

“It doesn’t have to be football related. We want to talk about life,” he said. “There’s so much more to what we do than just football.”

And he is true in what he said, as he had to face challenges as a two-time cancer survivor.

Rodriguez was first diagnosed with stage three cancer in May 2012. Then he was diagnosed with stage two cancer in September 2014. It was around this time a year ago when Rodriguez underwent chemotherapy for a second time.

Rodriguez was shocked with the diagnoses, but feels that football prepared him to handle these kinds of situations.

“I tell our guys all the time football is easy, life is hard,” Rodriguez said.

But having a positive mentality and faith is what kept Rodriguez going through those tough times.

Rodriguez also had the support of well-known football friends.

Mike McCarthy, head coach of the Green Bay Packers, was a graduate assistant at Fort Hayes early in his career, and sent Rodriguez care packages.

“It has sentimental value,” Rodriguez said. “They’re just good people.”

He has been in remission for eight months. It was at the end of his chemotherapy when a new opportunity arose. Krich called about the defensive coordinator position.

“I wasn’t coaching anywhere and when he called me, I actually worked out for the first time since my chemo, so I was feeling kind of good,” Rodriguez said.

“If he would have called me any other time, I probably would have said no. It’s amazing just how life works…I think it’s been a blessing both ways,” he said.

Now that those challenges are in the past, he is back doing what he does best in La Verne.

When Rodriguez is not in the office or field, he is watching Dallas Cowboys football, playing golf and spending time with his 8-year-old daughter Victoria.

The expectations and hopes of the football team are high and Rodriguez believes the team can rise to the occasion.

The Leopards started off the season with a win and a loss so far. They will take on Occidental Oct. 3.

“We have a good base, and there’s nowhere to go but up,” he said.

Kaila Williams can be reached at kaila.williams@laverne.edu.

Latest Stories

Related articles

Leopards fall short on Homecoming

Hundreds filled the stands at Ortmayer Stadium for Homecoming on Oct. 13 to cheer on the Leopards as they faced Claremont-Mudd-Scripps and lost, 30-17.

Offense struggles in loss to Redlands

Football battled the rain in a 24-7 loss to Redlands on Saturday afternoon at Ortmayer Stadium.

Leopards lose close game on opening night

Saturday nights are back at Ortmayer Stadium. The La Verne football team took on the Willamette Bearcats last weekend but fell short, 24-21.

Athletes look forward to exciting fall season

The fall 2023 season is upon us, and the Leopards are ready to get back to competing. Here is how each team stacks up to start the year.