Much like offensive lineman, punters, place kickers and specialists alike don’t always get the recognition traditionally donned on skill players.
Hart junior Aaron Rodriguez knows that stigma all too well and is an avid supporter of social media movements like “#PuntersArePeopleToo.”
Rodriguez found that sometimes elusive recognition as a punter, though, being named Wednesday as one of three punters to the Kicking World 2017 All-American team.
“I just got a message on my phone saying I made it and it kind of blew me away,” Rodriguez said.
Don’t let Rodriguez’s modesty fool you.
The All-American honors rounded out a superb season for the Indians’ punter and placekicker. He had a 37.8-yard net average through 51 punts without tallying a touchback. He was named to the All-Foothill League first team.
Rodriguez’s net average ranked sixth in the CIF-Southern Section, per its official website.
“I really just buckled down after a pretty good sophomore year and perfected my form,” Rodriguez said. “I was really able to build up my power as well.”
Rodriguez began to make some waves after finishing first in a punting competition at a Kicking World showcase in San Diego in June of last year. That earned him a spot at the Kicking World’s invite-only showcase in Austin, Texas, in early December.
Rodriguez graded third overall – and top in his class – out of 30 punters at the invite-only showcase, which had already been narrowed down from a field of over 1,200 punters across the country. Rodriguez was graded on punting metrics such as hangtime, lack of touchbacks, punts inside the 20-yard line and net average.
“His consistency really stood out to us” said Kicking World owner and coach Brent Grablachoff.
— Aaron Rodriguez (@Rod_Aaron18) January 19, 2018
Best of all for Rodriguez, the invite-only showcase in Austin was live-streamed to college coaches around the country. Several of those coaches, some of which were at the NCAA Division 1 level, have already reached out to Grablachoff to inquire about Rodriguez.
“He’s right there with some of the top punters in the country,” Grablachoff said. “The offers should begin to come in before his senior year. There’s no doubt in my mind he’ll be playing on Saturdays.”
Rodriguez said coaches have reached out to him through Twitter as well.
His success is especially astounding, considering he hadn’t begun to play football until his freshman year.
“I had always been a soccer player,” Rodriguez said. “But everyone always told me I had a ‘big leg.’”
Rodriguez, with the help of his older brother Nick, now 28, taught himself to punt and kick based off YouTube videos. He earned the starting punter and kicker job at Hart as a sophomore and gave up soccer this season in order to go to kicking showcases around the nation.
“It was kind of heartbreaking to give it up,” Rodriguez said. “Seeing all the success I’m having at these showcases is letting me know it’s paying off, though.”
Rodriguez attended a Chris Sailer Kicking camp in Las Vegas earlier this month and hopes to attend more Kicking World showcases in Southern California before the start of his senior year.
“All the punting metrics are definitely there for him, but he’s also a very professional and coachable kid,” Grablachoff said. “That’s going to go a long way for him. He’s a got an extremely bright future.”