University of Miami

This UM football assistant and former national champion will soon enter a Hall of Fame

University of Miami quarterback Brock Berlin, center, celebrates with Orien Harris, left, and Joel Rodriguez, right, at midfield of the Orange Bowl after defeating the Florida State Seminoles on Sept. 10, 2004.
University of Miami quarterback Brock Berlin, center, celebrates with Orien Harris, left, and Joel Rodriguez, right, at midfield of the Orange Bowl after defeating the Florida State Seminoles on Sept. 10, 2004. Miami Herald Archive, 2004

Do you know coach Mark Richt’s four basic rules for the Miami Hurricanes’ football program?

Joel Rodriguez does.

“Be on Time, be prepared, do your best and be respectful,’’ Rodriguez told the Miami Herald.

Rodriguez does all of that, and more.

Rodriguez, 35, one of the friendliest and most intelligent former players to ever wear a Hurricanes jersey, grew up in Miami Lakes, graduated from Monsignor Pace, was an offensive lineman from 2000 through 2004, and now serves as the Hurricanes’ director of player development/defense.

On Saturday night, June 2, Rodriguez can add “Miami Lakes Hall of Fame member’’ to his resume when he joins an induction class that includes former Miami Dolphins great Tony Nathan.

“I’m very, very honored,’’ Rodriguez said. “Not that I’m that old, but I’m way beyond my playing days. And whenever something like this comes up, it means that at some point during the past, you did something good enough to make someone think you were worthy enough to be recognized for all time, which is awesome.”

Rodriguez, a former center, was the backup to Brett Romberg during UM’s last national title season in 2001. He was a four-time all-conference scholar-athlete for Miami, and was the starting center as a junior and senior.

He returned to UM after serving as the offensive line coach and run-game coordinator for Fordham University in New York.

These days, he said his job entails “a lot of things.’’

“The main thing I have to make sure is that all the things we ask our players to do on a daily basis that may not necessarily involve football or X’s and O’s, get done and are followed through to the best of their abilities.”

So, what about being on time, being prepared, doing your best and being respectful?

“In player development it’s our job to develop our guys, but really breathe life into those four core values into their daily life,’’ Rodriguez said. “We’re constantly mentoring and educating and being a sounding board for our guys.’’

Rodriguez also is UM’s liaison for all NFL-related endeavors, such as dealing with scouts, general managers and pro days, and has recruiting responsibilities as well.

“I meet with pretty much every high-level recruit that walks in the building,’’ he said. “We talk with mom or dad, aunt or uncle, about how we’re going to help their young man become a better man three, four or five years down the line when they leave us.”

This year, he’s also working with the defensive staff, watching tape of future opponents and viewing UM’s defense the way, say, the opposing offensive line coach might view it.

“I love it,’’ he said.

Beyond his job responsibilities, Rodriguez also served as keeper of the famous turnover chain during games this past season. It was his job to reward each turnover-maker the chain to wear for a glorious few minutes.

“None of us ever thought in a million years that it was going to have that type of cult following so quickly,’’ Rodriguez said of the five-and-a-half-pound, 10K gold necklace with the bejeweled U.

Rodriguez was asked about the high expectations for the Hurricanes, who finished 10-3 last season for a No. 13 AP ranking and are predicted to finish as high as No. 6, per Athlon magazine, in 2018.

“There should be high expectations,’’ he said. “We’re finally getting to a point where it’s not outlandish or visionary or coach-speak to talk about winning actual championships. We hit the first benchmark of winning the Coastal Division.

“I don’t think there’s anyone on our schedule right now, about whom we’d say, ‘Hey we would trade our roster with theirs and feel good about it.’ We might say, ‘This one X might be better than this one O, but as a whole, all our X’s are better than their O’s.’’’

Besides Nathan, the other Miami Lakes Sports Hall of Fame members to be inducted June 2 are former basketball and volleyball star Sara Sidner, the late basketball player William Graham and active Miami Lakes Optimist Club member Jim Hamilton.

Related stories from Miami Herald

  Comments