Temple tight end brings new dedication to his game

Tight end Evan Rodriguez , who admits he used to be lazy, greets Temple fans in Ocean City.
Tight end Evan Rodriguez , who admits he used to be lazy, greets Temple fans in Ocean City. (DAVID SWANSON / Staff Photographer)
Posted: July 31, 2011

OCEAN CITY, N.J. - Evan Rodriguez openly admits that he wasn't anywhere near the tight end he should have been.

He used words such as lazy and immature to describe his first three years at Temple.

"It was just basically partying and living the college life," the 6-foot-3, 250-pound senior said.

"Once I got older, I matured and started to settle down and realized what's important. I put my priorities straight, and now I'm coming along."

As a result, the North Bergen, N.J., resident is one of 34 players named to the John Mackey Award watch list.

The award, named after the late Baltimore Colts Hall of Fame tight end, annually goes to the nation's top collegiate tight end.

On Saturday, here at the Ocean City Music Pier, fans flocked to Rodriguez as if he was the overwhelming favorite to win the award.

"I always loved football," he said in between signing autographs at the annual Temple Fanfest. "But I guess now fans and people are starting to realize my talent."

Rodriguez, who transferred to Temple in the fall of 2008 after redshirting in 2007 at West Virginia, always had talent. He just didn't always display the work ethic needed to reach his full potential.

Rodriguez got by on athletic ability - especially last season.

The first-team all-Mid-American Conference selection finished the campaign with career highs in receptions (21) and receiving yards (247) to go with two touchdowns. He finished third on the team behind wideouts Michael Campbell and Rod Streater in all three categories.

But . . .

"I would say that I was lazy when [Steve Addazio] came," Rodriguez said of Temple's new head coach, appointed in December.

He quickly learned that remaining lethargic and keeping a poor practice demeanor would translate into losing his starting position.

"I've seen improvement on the accountability factor," Addazio said. "The fact that . . . you just don't show up and play the game.

"You are going to be held accountable every day for your effort, for your attitude, for your demeanor."

Based on Rodriguez's transformation, Addazio thinks his tight end could have a career season. But, the coach added, only if he remains accountable.

Listening to Rodriguez, one would assume he'll do just that.

"I'm going to try to pack a punch," he said. "My personal goals are to win the Mackey award and just go in the NFL."

Contact staff writer Keith Pompey at 215-854-2939, kpompey@phillynews.com, or @pompeysgridlock on Twitter. Read his blog, "Owls Inq," at www.philly.com/owlsinq


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