When you meet West Point linebacker Andrew Rodriquez he looks you in the eye. The senior from Alexandria, Virginia has come back this year from a serious back injury and surgery that kept him out of the entire 2010 season.
This year he is back and providing leadership to the "Second Row" of the Black Knights defense as Coach Ellerson likes to put it. So far this season, West Point's "A-Rod" has 35 tackles, two fumble recoveries and an interception in seven games.
In addition to playing football, Cadet Rodriquez is one of the best students at the Academy holding a 4.14 grade-point average. In the spring 2010 semester he had a registered grad of A plus in all five of his academic courses and has been on the dean’s list five times. In 2009 he was a CoSIDA Academic All-District I selection
But perhaps his greatest academic recognition occurred this week when Rodriquez was named one of 16 finalists for the William V. Campbell Trophy given to the top scholar-football player in the country. The award named in honor a former Columbia University coach given by the National Football Foundation provides a post graduate scholarship. The son of a US Army General was selected along with the 15 others from a pool of 127 nominations.
The Campbell Trophy Award recipient will be announced on Dec. 6 at the National Football Foundation Dinner at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York City. Shaun Castillo was the last Army player to receive this level honor in 1999.
Rodriquez serves as Army captain along with quarterback Max Jenkins, and fellow linebacker Steve Erzinger. The coaching staff eased him back into the staring line-up during August practice testing his recovery. An interception he made in the mid-August scrimage at Michie Stadium announced his return to competitive form. In 2009 "A-Rod" was the leading tackler on the Army team with 85 tackles of which 40 were unassisted. He also had two fumble recoveries and two interceptions.
Each university is limited to one nomination each year for consideration by the Campbell Award committee. The nominees must be a starting player maintain a top Grade Point Average, and demonstrate outstanding leadership and citizenship.
The other members of this year’s scholar-athlete class include Drew Butler (Georgia), Kirk Cousins (Michigan State), Micha Davis (Delta State), John Dowd (Navy), Yaser Elqutub (Northwestern State), Chris Ganious (South Dakota), Clay Garcia (Colorado School of Mines), Chandler Harnish (Northern Illinois), Tysyn Hartman (Kansas State), Chaz Hine (South Florida), Joe Holland (Purdue), Jared Karstetter (Washington State), Ryan Tannehill (Texas A&M), Patrick Witt (Yale) and Michael Zweifel (University of Dubuque).
Notable previous winners of The Campbell Trophy include Air Force's Chris Howard in 1990; Florida's Danny Wuerffel in 1996; Tennessee's Peyton Manning in 1997; Chad Pennington of Marshall in 1999, Florida's Tim Tebow in 2009, and Texas' Sam Acho last season. The Campbell Trophy was first awarded in 1990.
Have to believe Cadet Andrew Rodriquez is a strong candidate for the Campbell Award.
Ken Kraetzer covers West Point football for WVOX 1460 AM in New Rochelle, NY and is heard nationally on WVOX.com. Reach him on firstname.lastname@example.org