By Laura Amato
When Francis Lewis junior Jean Rodriguez was growing up, his mother told him he was going to be a soccer player.
He kind of felt like he had to listen to her.
So, Rodriguez became a soccer player and, this season, he is proving just how good he is at it.
“I started when I was 3 years old. I love the sport,” Rodriguez said. “I love to play, it’s just my favorite thing.”
In the first six games of the season, Rodriguez has established himself as one of the top goal-scorers in the city. Over that span he led Queens A East with 11 goals and settled into a role with the Patriots during his first year on varsity.
It’s a role he worked all summer to achieve.
“Off-season was good,” Rodriguez said. “I worked very hard to play for varsity, worked my butt off all summer. I wanted to play this team. Now I know all my work is paying off.”
Rodriguez wasn’t the only one anxious to play for the Patriots this fall. Francis Lewis coach Roger Sarmuksnis was also more than ready to get the striker in uniform and, more importantly, watch him put the ball in the back of the net every game.
“It’s extremely awesome. He is a player that we’ve been waiting for a couple of years now,” Sarmuksnis said. “And these boys love to play for their high school. To wear the Francis Lewis jersey, it just means so much to them and that’s incredibly important.”
Of course, Rodriguez has a very specific goal-scoring approach and it’s a lot more involved than simply pushing the ball towards the net.
“You always have to have your head on a swivel,” Rodriguez said. “You never know who’s coming. Someone can come up right behind you or you can have another teammate coming up behind you making a run. So you’ve got to be ready for everything.”
Rodriguez’s mind works quickly when the ball lands at his feet because, as soon as that happens, he sees options. There are plenty of ways to get to the goal and Rodriguez sees all of them when he’s on the field.
“My first reaction is to either keep the ball at my feet or try and find one of my teammates,” he said. “But if I have the space in front of me, then I’ll look down and dribble and try and to score a goal.”
Rodriguez is well aware he has a reputation. His job, as striker, is to put the ball in the back of the net and, so far this season, that’s just what he’s done.
But he also knows that job attracts attention and other squads across the league are gunning to slow him down.
He’s not entirely worried about that.
Rodriguez is a soccer player and he’s going to find a way to play soccer, no matter what any other team expects from him. So he’s determined to score goals, to live up to his reputation and, most importantly, help his team win.
“My mindset this year was to help Francis Lewis win a championship. That’s it,” Rodriguez said. “I want it and we’ve got a good team this year—I’m confident in what we can do.”