CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — Long before Santi Rodriguez ever signed his National Letter of Intent to play soccer at DePaul, he grew up learning the game from his dad, Jacobo, who played goalie as a kid in Spain.
“He actually told me not to play goalie because he had more fun watching me in the field,” Santi joked.
And it’s easy to see why his dad wanted him scoring the ball, not defending the net. Sanit’s highlight videos from youth soccer show his potential. The game has always come easy to Rodriguez, and the WCIA 3 Boys Athlete of the Year says it all started with his dad.
“I wanted to make him proud but he also made it a lot of fun to play as well,” Rodriguez said. “It’s not like I was forced into it, he developed the love of soccer that I have now.”
Rodriguez quickly worked his way up through the junior ranks. Central head coach Nick Clegg still remembers the first time he saw the 5-foot-11 forward.
“His freshman year when he showed up, I was the JV coach, and he was arguably the best player in the program,” Clegg said.
Rodriguez only blossomed from there, scoring a school record 101 career goals. He set reset the program mark for goals in a season twice. As a senior, Santi scored 48 times to go along with 17 assists. The All-State selection led the Maroons to the program’s first back-to-back regional titles.
“I’d like to be humble and say it’s not a big deal but it feels really nice because leaving your mark on the program history is a big deal,” Rodriguez said. “Hopefully there are kids coming through the program in the future who can look at my records and hopefully surpass them.”
“Santi has all the tools and the desire to be very successful in college and if he wants to dedicate his life to soccer, I think he definitely can and have a career,” Clegg added.
For winning the WCIA 3 Boys Athlete of the Year Award, Rodriguez receives a $500 scholarship. Oakwood’s Katelyn Young won the WCIA 3 Girls Athlete of the Year. To watch her story, click here: https://www.wcia.com/sports/2020-wcia-3-girls-athlete-of-the-year-katelyn-young/