I had the opportunity to have a chat with the Bears’ 2012 fourth-round Draft selection, and rookie TE, Evan Rodriguez today, and was impressed with what he had to say. But, of course, Evan knows that saying the right thing will only get him so far, and he’s looking to prove to both the Bears and his teammates that they can trust him as both a player and a person.
“I’m just happy that I’m here,” Evan said. “I couldn’t be in a better organization. But it’s really just a stepping stone; now I have to keep working and get better every day.”
Rodriguez looks at his opportunity in Chicago as not only an ideal situation but also as a fresh start. Evan started his career at West Virginia, but transferred to Temple after he reportedly had a felony assault charge (ultimately reduced to misdemeanor disturbance and trespassing), which stemmed from an alleged physical altercation with a female residence hall advisor.
But the Bears have acknowledged the concern and are confident that Evan has matured. And while I agreed to leave what was in the past in the past, Evan says that the Bears believe in him. “[Phil] said he picked me [partly] because I was a forward guy, and he liked my honesty. He has my back, and he believes in me, and I have faith in the whole organization.”
Rodriguez credits his support staff for helping him reach his goals thus far. “I had great support growing up. [They’ve] never given up on me through my ups and downs, and always kept it positive. My mom was number one; she’s just my inspiration and such a strong woman,” Evan said.
It’s been apparent in OTAs that the Bears plan to build on Rodriguez’s versatility in practice to hopefully use him as a mismatch on the field come game-day; lining him up at just about every offensive position expect quarterback and offensive line. “I’ll be playing slot, tight end, full back, wide receiver . . . I’m just enjoying it,” Evan said.
“I’m a mismatch for any defense,” Rodriguez continued. “The reason being is that I’m versatile, so you can pretty much line me up anywhere on the offense, and if it’s a linebacker on me, I can use my speed as an advantage. If you put a defense back on me, I can use my size advantage.”
When asked about what it’s been like to be on the field with talented players the likes of Jay Cutler and Brandon Marshall, I could almost hear Evan’s smile widen through the phone. “Oh man, it’s a blessing. Jay’s one of the best in this business. Being out there with all the other players around me, it’s such a dream come true. But at the same time, I’ve got to go from realizing that these were my role models growing up to knowing that now I’ve got to compete and keep up with them and show them that they can have faith in me.”
He went on to say that veteran wide receiver Brandon Marshall has been especially encouraging. “[Brandon] is a real humble guy,” Evan said. “When I’m on the field, and if I make a play, he’s like, ‘shake that off, that’s what you’re here for. Go do it again now.’ He’ll says things like, ‘try this’ or just things to change my technique up a little. All the guys have been making me feel real comfortable.”
Rodriguez’s camp maintains that he was the only Latino selected in the 2012 NFL Draft, and while Evan doesn’t much care about that, he’s proud to be a part of a small ethnic group in the League. “I know there’s not many [Latinos] in the NFL,” he said. “I believe it’s only one percent. Looking at that percentage means a lot in a way, because hopefully I can give Latino kids growing up a little hope and courage to pursue their dreams.”
Most of all, Evan is just focused on the goals ahead in the coming weeks and months, and is excited for the challenge. “It’s been a long journey and I couldn’t be in a better city. Now I’m trying to build my legacy, and I’m excited to be in Chi-Town.”