By Katie Bailey
Making the two and a half hour drive to Ambrose from Lockport, Ill., junior Alex Rodriguez switches the radio dial between stations. He settles on the country station when the voice of Taylor Swift crosses the air waves. He would not dare change the station while his celebrity crush is singing.
They are both feeling twenty-two, but while Swift is dressing up like a hipster and making fun of her exes, Rodriguez is suiting up for the Fighting Bees football team on the defensive line. The nose guard transfer took some time off before returning to the game.
Previously, Rodriguez attended Joliet Junior College. There, he traded his football jersey for a fire suit working as a firefighter on the east side of Joliet.
In April of 2012 Rodriguez was on duty when a call came in. On the first engine to the scene, he stood face to face with one of the biggest fires in the country. Flames consumed a steel galvanizing plant east of the city.
“The fire was so big it looked like hell was coming out of the sky,” Rodriguez said. “It was so hot it peeled back the skin on my face.”
After two years of seeing flames, he decided that the career was not for him.
“I was in special education classes growing up. I picked an easy major because I didn’t have much confidence,” Rodriguez said. “Once I realized that, I gained a lot of confidence and decided to follow my passion.”
That passion was in teaching and coaching. Now a secondary education major with an endorsement in biology, his favorite subject, he looks forward to teaching high school students about the world around them. He also hopes to coach wrestling.
“I think your passion isn’t always something you want, but something you’re afraid to go after,” Rodriguez said.
While most know Rodriguez for his skills on the football field, he’s also got athletic ability in other areas. Weighing 300 pounds, he completed a half-marathon this summer. The only other marathon he has completed involved eating.
“I was a four-year champion of the Lockport Township High School pie eating contest,” Rodriguez said.
All of this success in any athletic endeavor, especially football, can be attributed to a little hard work, a little practice, and a lot of superstition.
Rodriguez has a very strict ritual on game day starting long before he reaches the field. When he wakes up he puts on his Laser Cats shirt inspired by the Saturday Night Live digital short, then he opens and closes his closet exactly three times before eating two bagels and hashbrowns for breakfast. Once he puts on his game socks that remain unwashed throughout the season, he is primed and ready to play.
Rodriguez will take the field dirty socks and all along with the rest of the Fighting Bees on November 16 for their last conference game of the season verse Waldorf College. Kickoff is at 1 p.m. in Forest City, Iowa. The game will be broadcast live via Game Central.