TASTY TIDBITS NFL player Rodriguez holds free camp for local youngsters

Weehawken Open golf set with coach earning prestigious honor; Glover camp registration

Evan Rodriguez was asked if he ever had a chance to meet a player from the National Football League while he was growing up in North Bergen.
“I don’t remember how old I was, but Johnny Davis [from the Super Bowl champion San Francisco 49ers] came to North Bergen,” said Rodriguez, currently a tight end with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. “I was very excited when he came. I liked it.”
So with that in mind, Rodriguez, now 26 years old, wanted to do something for local youngsters, especially those in his hometown of North Bergen. Last Saturday, Rodriguez held a free clinic for youngsters ages 8 through 14, at Stan Newman Field adjacent to the township’s Recreation Center, teaching youngsters the proper fundamentals in the sport of football.
Approximately 250 youngsters attended the festivities. They were each given a T-shirt, complete with Rodriguez’s name and number on it.
USA Football, in conjunction with the NFL’s Play 60 program, helped to sponsor the clinic.
“I always wanted to do something like this,” said Rodriguez, the 2006-07Hudson Reporter Male Athlete of the Year out of North Bergen High School. “I felt like it was my obligation to do it, to give kids some help in learning about football.”
Rodriguez said that he first reached out to current North Bergen head football coach Czar Wiley, himself a recipient of the Hudson Reporter Male Athlete of the Year honor back in 1997.
“Coach Czar said that he would help me take care of it and was more than willing to help,” Rodriguez said. “USA Football provided the t-shirts, the footballs, the flags and cones. We had a bunch of volunteers come to help us distribute drinks, snacks and stuff to the kids.”
Rodriguez said that fliers went out throughout the local schools to alert them of the clinic, which helped with the turnout.
“I’m really happy it was a success,” said Rodriguez, who was blessed with a perfect day for the event.
Some of the coaches who aided Rodriguez included former North Bergen grid standout Mike Mentor (currently playing college football at Wagner) and former Lincoln quarterback Lamar McKnight (currently at Tennessee State).
Current Buffalo Bills wide receiver Marcus Easley, a former teammate of Rodriguez’s during his year with the Bills, was also on hand.
“I was glad to have Marcus there to help me out,” Rodriguez said. “We had a lot of people there. It wasn’t just me.”
But it was Rodriguez who was the main focus.
“Basically, I’m just trying to give the kids a model to follow, give them the right to believe in their dreams,” said Rodriguez, who has had to endure his share of trials and tribulations during his high school, college and professional career. “I’m going on my fourth year in the NFL and trying to prove everyone wrong. These kids could prove people wrong if they believe in their dreams.”
The kids in attendance were happy to get a chance to meet and greet a real NFL player.
“I was really excited to meet him,” said 10-year-old Maximus Yacaza of West New York. “I knew who he was. I was pumped up to get the chance to be here. He inspires me.”
Yacaza said he’s a running back and quarterback, two positions that Rodriguez played growing up in the North Bergen Recreation football program and at North Bergen High.
“Is that true?” Yacaza asked Rodriguez, who nodded. “That’s just awesome. I don’t like to brag, but I was the MVP last year.”
Yacaza was asked if there was one thing he learned from the clinic.
“Stamina,” he said. “I learned that you need stamina. I have been through like three lines here.”
Fair enough.
Chris Teurbe-Tolon is another 10-year-old aspiring gridder from North Bergen.
“I was so excited to meet an NFL player,” Tolon said. “I knew of him, but never met him. I learned how to catch a ball better than I used to. It was a lot of fun.”
Evan Cabrera is an 11-year-old from North Bergen who obviously knew of Rodriguez.
“I play Madden ’15 all the time with him [in the game],” Cabrera said. “I use him as part of the game. And we have the same name, Evan from North Bergen. So he’s just like me.”
What did little Evan learn from big Evan?
“How to be nice,” Cabrera said. “It’s important to be nice and not bully people. I have to respect others.”
Benny Rodriguez is a 10-year-old from West New York.
“If anyone tells you that you can’t do something, you have to prove them wrong,” young Benny said.
No truer words were spoken.
Evan Rodriguez had to get on a plane to Tampa to resume offseason training with the Buccaneers soon after the clinic.
“It was great to come home and see some of my old friends,” Rodriguez said. “There are a lot of guys here who I grew up with. I received some great support from the community. They’re all part of this beautiful day.”
Rodriguez knows that there’s no guaranteed roster spot for him with the Buccaneers.
“I always have something to prove,” Rodriguez said. “There’s always someone trying to take my job. But the way I look at it, I’m in a good position here. I’m back with the coaching staff who drafted me [Tampa Bay head coach Lovie Smith drafted Rodriguez for the Chicago Bears back in 2012]. They know what I can do. I’m in a good situation. I just have to keep working hard and make sure I make the team.”
Rodriguez had three days of mini-camp in Tampa that began Monday. He is already planning for the next North Bergen free clinic.
“I’d like to make it an annual thing,” Rodriguez said.
It’s always good to see a professional player give back to the community where he grew up…
Speaking of pros who give back on a regular basis, former New York Giants defensive tackle and College Football Hall of Famer Rich Glover, the former Nebraska All-American and two-time Outland Trophy winner, will hold his annual free camp at Jersey City’s Caven Point Cochrane Field from July 6-10 from 9 a.m. to 12 noon for kids ages 9 through 14.
Glover, the former Dickinson and Ferris head coach, said that there are registration forms throughout Jersey City and at the Jersey City Recreation headquarters in Caven Point. For further information, call (201) 423-9961…
The annual Weehawken Golf Open will take place August 6 at the Crystal Springs Golf Course with all proceeds going to benefit the Weehawken Volunteer First Aid Squad. For more information, contact Numargo Vasquez at (201) 773-7641 or email at nvasquez@wvfas.org.
The organizer of the Open, namely retired Weehawken teacher and current golf coach Carnig Nersesian, just was inducted into the Emerson High School Hall of Fame. Incredibly, Emerson High School might be gone, but the Hall of Fame lives on thanks to the efforts of the immortal Nick “Whizzer” Mastorelli
And speaking of Weehawken, the school is going to introduce cross country as a varsity sport in the fall, so if anyone is interested in becoming the coach at Weehawken High, please contact athletic director Zach Naszimento at (201) 422-6138 or via e-mail at znaszime@weehawken.k12.nj.us.
Wait, he can’t get an easier e-mail to remember than that mess? – Jim Hague

Jim Hague can be reached at OGSMAR@aol.com.

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