Socorro Independent School District (El Paso) will declare Ruben Rodriguez as Eastlake High School’s newest head football coach. Rodriguez fills the void left by Jimmy Calderon’s move from Eastlake head coach to SISD athletic director in early June.
Rodriguez is no stranger to El Paso high school sports. Having kicked off his coaching career with an 11-year run at his alma mater Riverside High School, Rodriguez joined the Eastlake staff as offensive coordinator in 2010. Nine years into his tenure at Eastlake, which included a healthy dose of baseball coaching, Rodriguez will now take over as the program’s second-ever head football coach.
Rodriguez will lead an Eastlake Falcons team coming off of a 5-6 2018 campaign. Eastlake went 2-3 against their 1-5A district competition and lost to Caprock in the first round of playoffs.
Jesse Tovar of Prep1, TheOldCoach.com‘s West Texas partner, spoke with Rodriguez soon after he accepted the promotion.
Interview with Coach Ruben Rodriguez
Tovar: Coach, you are the new head football coach at Eastlake High School. How are you feeling right now?
Rodriguez: I’m excited and ready to get to work! It’s been a long two weeks of uncertainty, but we have continued with the summer weights and conditioning program. We’ve continued to have kids show up in the summer and work hard. Now that the wait is over and I have the opportunity to lead the Eastlake football program, our coaching staff will continue to focus on finishing up summer conditioning strong, and get ready for the start of camp in August. I’m excited and honored to be the second head football coach at Eastlake.
Tovar: What does it mean to you to take the place of former head coach JJ Calderon?
Rodriguez: Taking over for Coach Cal is an honor. We both came to Eastlake in 2010 and we worked together before that for 15 years. We’ve worked great together, competed, and I learned a lot from him. Over the years, we were part of some great teams and great coaching staffs. We were both mentored by coach Tom Work. Coach Cal gave me the opportunity to join his staff at Eastlake and what an honor it was at that time. We are excited for his new career path for coach, his wife Cynthia, and their family. We want to continue and build on the tradition of excellence within the football program and foundation that he has set forth. It’s not easy when you have a leader that leaves the program, but I know that Coach Cal will still be around for the players and the community. He will witness the special things that we intend to make happen within the Eastlake football program.
Tovar: It’s no secret that you are a fantastic baseball coach. What made you stick to football?
Rodriguez: I wouldn’t call myself a fantastic baseball coach, I would rather refer to myself as someone that likes to compete in all I do. I love baseball. I really fell for the sport because my oldest son played it for so long. Plus, it allowed me to stay competitive all year long. I want to thank coach Marc Herrera for allowing me to be on the baseball staff at Eastlake where there are some special things happening. But football is my passion. I love the environment on game days and the challenges of preparing young men to be great football players, and eventually, great young men. We competed this weekend in the NMSU 7-on-7 tournament and had success in it. Seeing the kids compete at a high level is a realization of the hard work that the players put in. Those moments of high-level competition are why I enjoy coaching football.
Tovar: Describe the interview process that you just experienced after knowing you were up against so many qualified candidates for the Eastlake head coach job?
Rodriguez: The toughest part was the waiting period. Allowing the time to give those quality applicants an opportunity to get their applications in was tough. The first round was great, I felt really prepared for the challenges that the committee asked. I felt confident in my approach to the interview since I have been at Eastlake for nine years and could carry out the answers to the questions that the committee had with great amount of confidence. The second interview was with principal Gilbert Martinez and superintendent Dr. Jose Espinoza. That was a tough process, making sure I was on point and allowing myself to separate myself from the other candidates was a top priority during that second part. This is a high-profile job. Eastlake is well respected in El Paso, in the region, and across the state. Completing against the high level of qualified candidates was something I felt confident in.
Tovar: What is your first order of business as Eastlake head coach?
Rodriguez: First order of business is to continue working hard. We will have about three more weeks of summer workouts and the plan is to finish strong. Meeting with coaches and filling the slot vacated by the position is a priority. We will be meeting with individuals on our staff to discuss some of the adjustments in their positions. We need to meet with our administration staff to check for available teaching positions. Vacancies in our athletic department are also of high importance. Since most of the staff will remain intact we can continue to focus on the team concept part of things.
Tovar: Will you be retaining or re-interviewing coaching positions at Eastlake?
Rodriguez: I will meet with the coaches we have on staff first. I believe that we all have worked hard in this process, committed to the plan and deserve an opportunity to continue to be a part of the Eastlake football program. I have contacted coaches from other schools about availability for a position. This is something that must happen fast for us since we start school in five weeks.
Tovar: What does this promotion mean to your family? How will this impact them?
Rodriguez: This promotion is huge for my family. Being involved in high school athletics is all my family has ever known. If it’s not football, its baseball, softball, or soccer. My kids all play sports so being around Eastlake is the only option they have. I have a son who’s a graduate assistant at Tarleton State University and all he knew how to do is drive with his dad to work and hang out in the coaches office. My youngest daughter Allie spends so much time at Eastlake you would think she’s part of the team. The commitment and time will be a lot more I am sure, but I am lucky to have the supporting cast that I do from my wife Erika, whose understanding with my hectic schedule and who raises our family on her own from July to December every year, without complaining. Erika is my rock, surely no head coach could do this without a strong partner, and I am no different, and I thank her for that. I also want to thank my mom Mary, as well as my sisters and their families. My entire family takes pride in Eastlake athletics. I am grateful for their support of me and my career. They make great sacrifices for the sole benefit of my coaching career.
Tovar: Eastlake is in contention for championships every year. How does the 2019 Falcon team look? What can we expect from your boys next fall?
Rodriguez: Our Eastlake football team is ready for 2019. Our entire program made a commitment to the offseason this year. We are more experienced this season, with a lot of talented young players ready to make an impact. We had a great showing in the state qualifier this past month and we just won the NMSU 7-on-7 this past Saturday. Our maturity level has increased tremendously over the last few months. The players have really bought into the offseason plan, and it is starting to show. Having an opportunity to have summer workouts and practice with the players is also benefiting us a lot. We can expect a high energy, high intensity, and aggressive football team from Eastlake this year. We are ready for the tough district schedule that awaits us this fall.
Tovar: What personal and professional goals do you have for yourself?
Rodriguez: As for personal goals, the only one that I take pride in is being able to make a positive impact in the lives of young student athletes. We as coaches tend to spend more time with our players than our players spend with their own parents. We impact them by the way we teach them, the way we treat them, and the way you love them. We love our kids at Eastlake high school. They know that maybe or maybe not, but I know our coaches want to impact these student athletes for an opportunity to grow up to be great young men, then eventually great fathers and husbands. Professionally my goal is to impact our coaches on campus the way Tom Work and Jimmy Calderon did mine. They guided me to have this opportunity today, and I could never repay them for what I learned but I want to repay the favor. I want to be a role model for all coaches in our community and feeder patterns so that they too one day could have an opportunity like the one I just received today. One more thing, help spread the word. United Falcon Hustle (UFH) is ready for 2019.