Dec. 7, 2011
WEST POINT, N.Y. - Some think Andrew Rodriguez could be the superintendent at the United States Military Academy one day.
Rodriguez is that smart. Army's senior linebacker won the Campbell Trophy, college football's academic Heisman, on Tuesday night.
Rodriguez, a mechanical engineering major, carries a 4.14 grade-point average.
"We all see great things in his future," said Army coach Rich Ellerson.
Rodriguez's football future wasn't so bright last December. His junior season was lost due to a back injury and his career was in jeopardy.
Rodriguez has had two surgeries to correct a narrowing of his spine.
"It was very much in doubt whether or not he would play again or when he was coming back," Ellerson said. "Maybe, even commissioning (as an officer), was a concern."
Most cadets who take a semester off due to injury are December graduates.
Rodriguez took classes from bed while recovering, Ellerson said. He wanted to graduate with his class in the spring.
And Rodriguez wanted to join his teammates back on the field.
Rodriguez's teammates had faith in him. They voted Rodriguez a captain for this season before he was given clearance to fully practice.
Rodriguez was brought along slowly in training camp. But by the team's second game, he was back where he belonged - in the starting lineup.
On Saturday, Rodriguez leads Army out for his final football game on his team's biggest stage against rival Navy at FedEx Field in Landover, Md., 30 minutes from his home in Alexandria, Va.
The game, which he watched from the press box last December, also inspired his comeback.
"It's a big blessing for me to be part of this team," Rodriguez said. "It means a lot for me to put on the uniform for this game. This game is a special game. It will be a special feeling. It's the last time this team will go out and play together."
Rodriguez, Army's leading tackler as a sophomore, has made an impact. He leads the team in fumble recoveries (two) and pass breakups (four) and has 55 tackles, third on the team.
"I had a lot of support from my family, friends, teammates and coaches," Rodriguez said. "Sometimes, tough things happen. But you have to keep going and believe everything is going to turn out for the best. That's what I held on to."
Rodriguez is taking 24 credits this semester to catch up. Ellerson admires Rodriguez's organizational skills and how efficient he is with his time.
While Ellerson and Rodriguez were waiting an hour for a flight to an Army-Navy media event last week in Arlington, Va., Rodriguez found a cubicle, took out a calculator and started working.
"I went over there to see if I could give him a hand, if I could help him out with his homework, but after reading the first four words I knew I couldn't help him," Ellerson said. "I asked if I could get him anything."
Rodriguez's smarts will come in handy against Navy, which has defeated Army nine straight times. He reads offenses well and hasn't lost his sense for the football.
Off the field, Rodriguez has branched in infantry. His father, David, is the commanding general for U.S. Army Forces Command.
When asked about his life after Saturday, Rodriguez said, "I'm trying to focus on this game and what we need as a team, to win. I'll worry about that stuff later."