He’s 31 years old now and proud to be a vegan. He’s married and the proud father of two young sons. He’s also become an entrepreneur, selling health and wellness products from natural plants found in the ocean called sea moss – a rapidly growing avenue in the world of health.
It’s North Bergen’s native son Evan Rodriguez, who is giving professional football one more shot, now playing tight end for the Seattle Dragons of the newly reborn XFL from professional wrestling tycoon Vince McMahon.
At 31 – not 18, when he was dominating the local sports scene at North Bergen High School as an All-Area football and basketball player, earning 2006-2007 Hudson Reporter Male Athlete of the Year honors, or 24, when he was drafted by the Chicago Bears in the fourth round of the 2012 NFL Draft – Rodriguez knows that his football career is drawing close to its end.
Rodriguez’s last attempt at pro football ended abruptly when the American Alliance of Football ceased operations in the spring of 2019. Now he joined forces with a new league – and now that league ceased operations Wednesday due to the feared spread of the coronavirus. But Rodriguez was informed he would be paid for this season and that the league could return in 2021.
“It wasn’t my last rodeo,” Rodriguez said, before the XFL and the Dragons ceased operations. “I knew what was going on [with the AAF, the previous league he played in]. I knew I had a good season with the Alliance, and I knew that something would open up somewhere.”
Rodriguez had returned to New Jersey with his family to continue to remain in shape in case another team or league called.
“I was working out on my own and running routes with other free agents,” Rodriguez said. “My agent was staying active, connecting with other teams. We were just waiting for someone to make the call.”
Rodriguez went to an XFL Players’ Showcase held at Montclair State University in November and thought he did well.
“We had some teams that were hitting me up to see my interest,” Rodriguez said. “Some of them contacted me, so I knew things were looking pretty bright.”
One of his coaches with the San Antonio Commanders of the AAF was former Oregon head coach Mike Riley, who was now the offensive coordinator of the Seattle Dragons. Former Seattle Seahawks star Jim Zorn is the head coach.
“I knew I had a good chance with Seattle because I knew the system,” Rodriguez said.
So Rodriguez packed up his wife, Olivia, and their two sons, Jeremiah (age 3) and Valentino (age four months), and moved to Seattle.
“I felt like I still had it,” Rodriguez said. “I thought that it would be great being on national TV [the games were televised on FOX Sports and ESPN] and I could be on display again. Being around Coach Riley and his offense, as well as being one of the older guys, helped me. I was familiar with certain things and could direct the younger guys.”
Rodriguez was certain that the XFL would work this time, when it failed the last time.
“We’re on national TV,” Rodriguez said. “We have a great platform. I want a chance to get back to the NFL, so this is huge.”
Rodriguez scored the first touchdown in the history of the Dragons franchise, so he was proud of that fact.
“I’m just enjoying the process,” Rodriguez said. “I’m ready to make the greatest comeback story in history. I know it’s going to happen. I know my playing days are coming down, trickling down, but I’m just blessed and grateful to have this chance. To be able to have my family see me play. I appreciate my wife for holding down the family and let me continue my dream. I probably have about two-to-three years left, but I feel so much better than I ever did. My aches don’t hurt as bad as they once did.”
As Rodriguez pursued his ambition of being a pro football player, he always kept one person in mind.
“Coach A [the late Vince Ascolese, his coach at North Bergen] always said to me, ‘Evan, you’re a football player.’ Coach A knew what I was. I thank the Lord to have him looking down at me now.”
Rodriguez vowed to have his free football camp for youngsters in North Bergen sometime this summer.
As for “E-Rod’s” new business venture, visit www.myhealthwealthandimpact.com…
Late Thursday night, the NJSIAA announced that it was ceasing all winter sports, which meant that the Lincoln girls, featured in Scoreboard, would not get a chance to face Manchester in the overall Group II championship game. No champion will be crowned…
Kai’leel Jefferson of Hudson Catholic had an impressive performance at the NJSIAA Indoor Track Meet of Champions at the Bennett Center in Toms River last week, finishing 11th overall in the state in the 200-meter dash and 14th overall in the 55-meter dash…
St. Peter’s Prep was 13th overall in the 4×400-meter relay. Joe Morrone of Prep was 20th overall in the 400-meter run. Joshua Ruiz of Hudson Catholic was 26th in the shot put.
In the girls’ M of C, Alicia Campbell of Snyder was seventh overall in the shot put and 10th overall in the long jump.
In a strange twist, there was also an Alyssa Campbell of Bergenfield who was in the field of shot put throwers, as was a Maura Campbell of Pope John in the field. With three Campbell’s in a field of 29 competitors statewide, it’s safe to say that this group was “MMM, MMM, good.” Wonder if anyone remembers that advertising campaign?
Alejandra Bartutis of North Bergen was 21st n the high jump and 13th in the triple jump. Logan Hart of St. Dominic Academy was 21th in the triple jump…
The St. Peter’s Prep basketball team lost in the finals of the NJSIAA Non-Public A tournament to Bergen Catholic in double overtime. It was a tough setback for the county champion Marauders, but we’ll have more on one or more of the Marauders next week, when the Hudson Reporter Boys’ and Girls’ All-Area teams are revealed, so stay tuned.
Hudson Catholic’s girls lost in the finals of the NJSIAA Non-Public A to Immaculate Heart Academy. We’ll feature one or more of the Hawks in the All-Area teams next week. – Jim Hague
Jim Hague can be reached via e-mail at OGSMAR@aol.com