STILLWATER — Malcolm Rodriguez pumped 225 pounds of iron 36 rapid-fire times in the Oklahoma State weight room last Thursday morning. It was very likely the takeaway moment for the 30 or so NFL evaluators on hand for OSU’s Pro Day.
There was a better one, though. It happened about 20 minutes after Rodriguez’s feat of strength. I doubt any NFL personnel saw it, but then it wasn’t for them. It wasn’t staged.
It was Rodriguez and his mom, Shanna, walking with their arms around each other across the street from Boone Pickens Stadium to the Sherman E. Smith Training Center. Shanna was in lockstep with her son as he made his way from the lifting-and-jumping activities inside the stadium’s weight room to the sprinting-and-drilling setup inside the Smith Center.
Rodriguez had headphones dangling from his ears, his mom had a pair of OSU earrings. They were both smiling the whole way.
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“You’re contending,” Shanna told her son. “You’re contending.”
“She has been in my corner ever since I can remember,” Rodriguez said later at the completion of his day. “She’s always there for me.”
That’s what Thursday was all about. As a dozen former Cowboys vied for the attention of the right NFL coach, scout or front office type who might allow them to make football their profession, a few dozen family members and loved ones did what they could to lend support.
It was conversation, mostly. The players would walk over to the “family and agents” area off to one side of the Smith Center between their stations, seeking reassurance.
Devin Harper got that plus a hug from his mother, Alacia.
“She drove 12 hours yesterday. I couldn’t thank her more for coming,” Harper said. “She’s my heart, to be honest.”
You hear this feeling from players all the time. The day they sign with a college program, or the day they make their first college start, or the day they become the story for their college team.
Well, it doesn’t just stop when college does. The players trying to transition into the pros need all of the encouragement they can get. They rely on it from those who have encouraged them the longest.
You have read about Shanna and her husband Roman’s encouragement of Rodriguez before, dating back to when Rodriguez wrestled, ran track and played quarterback for Wagoner High School. That doesn’t stop now.
“We know how hard he has trained and prepared for it,” Shanna said as her son finished up Pro Day. “So you just want to see everything come to fruition.”
Shanna Rodriguez described her feeling as “nerv-ited,” a mixture of nervousness and excitement. You could sense that throughout the family section, where moms and dads used their smartphones to time their boys’ sprints and shuttle runs.
Josh Sills’ mom audibly celebrated her son’s shuttle performance. Israel Antwine’s dad narrated Israel’s defensive lineman agility drill by saying “Good job good job good job …”
With some unflinching faith mixed in.
“Am I nervous? No,” Roman Rodriguez said. “Because I know for a fact that my son is going to do his best.”
That was pretty cool. The whole scene was.
The 6-foot-6, 325-pound Sills walked out of the Smith Center straight into a bear hug from his mom, Kim. Sills playfully teased his dad, John, to the point that John laughingly joked with a nearby OSU security officer to “arrest this kid.”
Then the Sills trio walked across the field that Shanna and Malcolm Rodriguez strode earlier in the day. One family leaving in the same manner another had arrived. Together.
Photos: Athletes display their prowess at Oklahoma State’s Pro Day
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