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Andrew Rodriguez walked off the Memorial Stadium turf for the final time Friday, winding down a solid college football career that has given local fans an even bigger reason to follow our beloved Big Red.

Tuning in on any given Saturday, Husker Nation has watched No. 63 on the front lines of a meat-and-potatoes league in which success is often decided by who wins the battle in the trenches. This year, in particular, Rodriguez, better known to his friends and coaches as A-Rod, has been consistently impressive in that regard.

He has played with passion. He has played with purpose. He has shown bursts of speed, power and agility that could even earn him a chance to play on Sunday if the chips fall just right. And this season he’s been a vocal team leader on occasion, speaking up as a senior should.

Injuries to his teammates on the offensive line also forced A-Rod to be flexible, shifting from guard to tackle and back, sometimes within the same game. That’s a difficult assignment, especially at the Division I level. In that sense, he became an anchor on a makeshift line by season’s end, a guy teammates and coaches knew they could count on.

Through it all, Rodriguez has remained humble, preferring not to do in-depth interviews or talk about his own personal performance. He’s a team guy, and also a young man who appreciates the success he’s had but remains grounded in his roots.

Ever since a young boy from New York City took a giant leap of faith and moved to what must have seemed like a whole different world here in the Heartland, Rodriguez has fit in well. His brother and extended family deserve tremendous credit for giving him such a positive option.

As for his football talents, Aurora coaches recognized A-Rod’s unique ability very early on, in addition to his obvious size. He and his Husky teammates gave Big Red fans reason to cheer with back to back state championships, and for the last four year’s he’s added a local angle to Husker Nation’s conversation as well.

That’s a very big deal in a place where college football is a proud part of our culture. Win or lose, we cheer for the Huskers. And win or lose, it’s been fun to focus on Big No. 63.

Here’s a shout out and a verbal high five to a young man who has represented himself, his family and his community very well, both on the gridiron and in the game of life.

Kurt Johnson

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