Leeroy Rodriguez has had a front row seat to watch his son, Xavier, thrive for the Davis Spartans in 2018.
Senior quarterback Xavier Rodriguez leads the Sac-Joaquin Section with 2,374 passing yards and is third in the state and 17th in the nation, according to MaxPreps. He has 23 touchdowns and four interceptions for the Spartans (2-5, 1-3), who play Beyer (0-7, 0-4) at Johansen High School on Friday.
“I can’t help but be proud of him,” Leeroy said.
Leeroy is the linebacker coach for the junior varsity team.
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“I have seen him grow up and the passes he has thrown, I feel a lot of pride,” Leeroy said. “Sometimes, I forget he is my son.”
Xavier said playing in football games feels like a movie. In that case, he has put on quite a show for Spartan fans in head coach Tim Garcia’s Air Raid offense.
“It is definitely unbelievable,” he said. “I am blessed to have a a good coach that gives me the opportunity to throw as much as we do and the o-line that protects me is so great.”
At 6 feet, 1 inch and 175 pounds, Rodriguez isn’t the biggest of quarterbacks but he has other traits — a quick release and accuracy (he has a 58 percent completion percentage) — that make him one of the area’s top players.
Junior wide receiver Elijah Diaz said Rodriguez is one of the leaders of the team and it took him a little while to get used to how hard his quarterback threw. He received a painful lesson in the season-opener against Amador.
“I tried to catch it with my body and it hit my arm and it got my arm numb,” Diaz said. “After that, I knew not to catch with my body.”
Junior Gregory Smith has been Rodriguez’s favorite target, connecting on 11 touchdowns. Junior Michael Sherrod Jr. has eight, junior Nick Arrieta has 2, and Diaz has one.
“His big thing is he is really tough,” Garcia said. “He doesn’t get shaken up. He doesn’t get too excited and or too down and has a lot of leadership qualities on the field and the kids rally around him.”
Garcia knows a thing or two about playing quarterback. He starred at Davis in the late 90’s, Modesto Junior College in 2001 and 2002 and went on to the University of Mary. He’s in the Pirates’ Hall of Fame.
“This time in his career and where he is at, the sky is the limit for him,” Garcia said. “He is better than me when I was his age.”
It wasn’t always instant stardom for Rodriguez, however.
After playing on junior varsity during his sophomore year, Rodriguez made the varsity team last year but initially backed up then senior quarterback Ryan Viodes until Garcia made the decision to switch quarterbacks before the Spartans’ mid-season game against Modesto.
“Ryan took a beating (playing QB) and was a really good athlete and could play wide receiver and safety,” Garcia said. “When we made the change, it made our team better.”
Rodriguez was ready.
“I was definitely stoked,” he said. “I knew that I wanted to go and take advantage of my opportunity and show him that he didn’t make the wrong decision doing that.”
Rodriguez finished the season with 1,923 yards and 10 touchdowns for the 3-7 Spartans.
During the summer, “X” didn’t work out with other local quarterbacks, instead working with his dad, who has coached youth football in the area for over a decade.
“I worked a lot on footwork,” Xavier said. “We did a lot of repetition with getting my footwork better and getting the ball to come out better.”
Leeroy played youth football with the Modesto Broncos in 1989 but didn’t play in high school.
He wore the number 16, the same number his son wears for Davis.
“It’s almost over,” Leeroy said. “In the summer, he was pushing himself. He would throw 100 balls and I would run routes for him.”
Leeroy said they couldn’t afford a private quarterback coach so both Rodriguez’s would watch videos on YouTube or Google quarterback tips.
“It’s always been his dream for me to be a quarterback,” Xavier said.
“Coach Garcia is a true blessing” for Xavier, Leeroy said, adding that the one-on-one tutoring his son gets is great.
Diaz, Garcia, and Rodriguez meet every Tuesday and Thursday during lunch to watch film of the previous opponent as well as the next one.
“He watches as much film as anyone does,” Garcia said.
The studying and preparation led to Xavier breaking the school record with 473 yards in Davis’ 61-40 loss to Pacheco on Sept. 28. The old record was previously held by Viodes with 430.
“It was an amazing feat,” Rodriguez said. “I worked so hard just to break it and breaking it was even better. But I am not done yet.”
Garcia, who said interest in Rodriguez from colleges is starting to increase, compares his current quarterback to Trevor Mue, who Garcia coached at Central Valley in 2008. Mue was the offensive player of the year in the Valley Oak League and threw for 2,957 yards and 29 touchdowns.
“They are vary similar in the amount of film they watched and anticipating receivers and reading coverages,” Garcia said.
At 2-5, the Spartans must win all of their remaining games to have a chance at making the playoffs.
Whether they make the playoffs or not, Xavier has cemented his legacy as a Spartan.
“He is one of the best to come out of Davis,” Garcia said.
Xavier Rodriguez File
Name: Xavier Rodriguez
Hobbies: Playing sports and hanging with friends
Favorite TV Show: SportsCenter
Favorite NFL Quarterback: New Orleans Saints QB, Drew Brees
Favorite Movie: Space Jam
Favorite Artist: Kanye West
Future plans: Study sports medicine in college, wants to be an athletic trainer one day
Unusual fact: Broke his left elbow when he was 12 years old... by jumping off of a swing