Hunter Rodriguez better be wearing rib pads on his way to football practice these days.
When he walks from the locker room to the field most days he walks past his baseball teammates as they do their offseason training, a strenuous workout that includes throwing weighted basketball-type exercise balls, improving their hand strength by shaking a heavy rope, and taking ground balls in the sand to improve footwork.
Meanwhile, Rodriguez is missing out on all of the hard work by heading to football, where quarterbacks are off limits. They sometimes wear red pinnies to remind defenders of the no-touch policy.
And he takes some ribbing for it.
"It's great seeing those guys and all the hard work they are doing, but they let me know I am not doing it," Rodriguez said.
The Thunder's quarterback has his mind on football as Desert Vista (7-1) heads to Dobson (3-5) Friday night, but his heart is leaning toward baseball.
Rodriguez is being recruited in football and baseball and the tall left-hander said this week he will probably end up on the diamond.
"I am leaning toward playing baseball at Utah," he said. "I haven't decided or anything, but I really liked it there, and the coaches."
While in Salt Lake City for his visit, Rodriguez also met up with the Utah football coaches and talked about the possibility of playing both sports for the Pac 12 programs.
"They like me, too, and they said I could be a preferred walk-on," he said. "It's hard to see me not playing football, but I know it has to come to an end sometime, so I am being realistic."
In football, he has an offer from Idaho of the Western Athletic Conference, while in baseball Liberty of the Big South has also offered a scholarship.
"I'm definitely blessed and fortunate," said Rodriguez, who also mentioned baseball possibilities of Central Arizona and Arizona State. "It felt good getting my first baseball offer (after a good performance at the Area Code Games tryout in June)."
When and how the final decision plays out is in the future, but in Rodriguez's mind it is clear that there is a connection to being a quarterback and a starting pitcher.
"They both benefit each other," said Rodriguez, who went 2-3 with a 4.43 ERA last season on the mound. "It has a lot to do with bearing down, getting through situations and dealing with the pressure. Going through it on the mound can help me deal with something late in the fourth quarter."
Junior Nick Farina is a teammate of Rodriguez in both sports.
"He is a great leader, who is always calm," said Farina, who is a safety and outfielder. "We know we can look to Hunter to keep us focused, and if things are breaking down, or we are struggling, he is going to be steady."
Rodriguez, who is completing 67 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and four interceptions, has been one of the more unique prospects to come through the program.
"I don't remember having anyone like Hunter," Desert Vista coach Dan Hinds said about having an offer in both sports. "He has a steadying influence and he has the intangibles to be a college player."
It's just a matter of figuring it all out. The early signing date for baseball is Nov. 9, and the signing day for football is Feb. 1.
"I have some decisions to make, but I'm not focused on it right now," Rodriguez said. "I know there is a place for me and that's a huge relief."
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