NOBLESVILLE, Ind. – The annual Best of the Midwest Combine has come and gone for 2023 and it was a chance for several hundred football players to put on their cleats and put in some work on the football field.
For tight end Willie Rodriguez, a class of 2024 tight end from Alexandria (Ky.) it was a chance to step out of a successful wrestling season for a minute to show why he needs to be considered among the top tight ends in the nation for his class.
Rodriguez checks in at 6-foot-4, 232 pounds currently yet he wrestles heavyweight, meaning that he can face opposing wrestlers up to 285 pounds, but that has not slowed Rodriguez down as he is a top-three wrestler in the state of Kentucky.
But football is the sport that he is really getting noticed in and while he is only a three-star in the rankings, he holds 14 offers and counting including Indiana, Boston College, Pittsburgh and Toledo to name a few schools.
“It feels really good,” Rodriguez said of the offers. “It’s been my dream my whole life, for it to finally pay off… I’m going to keep working. This makes me more motivated.”
The Buckeyes have taken notice of Rodriguez and contact is starting to pick up with new Ohio State tight end coach Keenan Bailey as well as other members of the Ohio State recruiting office.
Ohio State is asking to see the talented tight end in a camp setting and that is something that Rodriguez is seriously considering.
What would it mean if that led to an offer from Ohio State at some point?
“That would be huge for me and my family,” Rodriguez said. “Obviously it’d be a one of my dream offers.”
What about a school like in-state Kentucky, which has not offered as of yet? Did Rodriguez grow up as a fan of the Wildcats?
“I was always mutual (in the schools that I liked, not having a favorite),” Rodriguez added. “I actually went to an Ohio State game, I have been to a UK game. My cousin played at UK, so I was a UK fan for a little bit, but I have never been a huge fan of any school.”
It has been several years since Rodriguez saw an Ohio State game in person, something that could change if the recruiting connection really picks up.
“(I went to a game) maybe when I was nine,” Rodriguez said. “They played Bowling Green, it was a blowout, it was a good game.”
Another school that could figure heavily into this one is Notre Dame. Rodriguez attends Covington Catholic, the same school that produced Notre Dame tight end Michael Mayer.
While there is a several year age difference between the two players, Rodriguez was always aware of Mayer’s exploits and has followed him closely.
“(He’s) definitely a huge role model,” Rodriguez said. “Coming out of (Covington Catholic) obviously it’s huge. To follow in his footsteps… big, big shoes to fill. He’s had so much success at the college level and he’s about to (go to) the NFL level, it’s really cool to follow behind him.”
Recruiting will sort itself out and for now Rodriguez is really excited for his upcoming senior season. For people who have not had a chance to check out his tape, what sets Willie apart from other players?
“I say my 50-50 ball (is one of my strongest attributes),” Rodriguez said. “I think it’s always mine. Then my hands also. My route running is elite too. Obviously, you didn’t see it today, but my blocking too.”
This season will be a chance to fine tune all those things as he looks to be a leader on his team. If all those things hold true, it will be little surprise that Rodriguez will be a highly coveted tight end prospect by many of the nation’s top programs, Ohio State included.