BRINGING THE GRIT: Sims, Rodriguez bring camaraderie to Ranger's defense
IT'S A BROTHERHOOD BETWEEN TERRY HIGH JUNIORS ELIJAH SIMS AND JUAN RODRIGUEZ.
The cornerstones of the Rangers' defense have played together since the seventh grade.
"He's gritty, I'm gritty," Sims, a 6-foot-3, 230-pound defensive end, said. "We love making plays. When he makes a play, I'm turned up for him. When I make a play, he's turned up for me."
Rodriguez, a 5-foot-8, 165-pound linebacker, added: "We're always hanging out, laughing at each other. It's always nice having a big guy in front of me. He always does his job, and I can come in and make the tackles. It's because of him that I can shine."
Both played their first year of varsity ball in 2020. Sims compiled 30 tackles and four sacks. Rodriguez totaled
50 tackles, two fumble recoveries and two fumbles caused.
Both are excited for what lies ahead.
"I'm not taking any plays off this year," said Sims, who also starts at tight end. "I'm bigger, stronger. I'm better conditioned and in better shape."
Rodriguez became well-acquainted with the weight room, learning to rely on strength and balance to make up for a lack of size.
Last season, he started at middle linebacker before he was moved to the outside, where he'd played since the seventh grade.
"It's easier to read the offense from the side than in the middle, blocked by guys who are 6-foot-2, 6-foot-3," Rodriguez said. "I just got more relaxed. As the year moved on, I got used to the speed and strength of the game and really was able to show out."
Juan Rodriguez, BF TerryPhoto by Bradley Collier
Terry has not made the playoffs since 2017, but Sims and Rodriguez are confident that can change. Plus, former Terry great Darnell Jackson, Class of 2006, is in as head coach.
"He makes a big difference," Rodriguez said. "He knows how Terry is, what Terry is like. He has that Terry pride in him. He wants what we want. He wants to really see Terry succeed and do well.
Sims added: He's the real deal."
3 Things to Watch: BF Terry
DYNAMIC DUO: Senior running back Michael Odom (584 rushing yards, 7 TDs) and senior receiver Alphonso Brown (331 receiving yards, 4 TDs) are terrific athletic talents. Each has the ability to turn nothing into something every time they have the ball.
NO WEARING DOWN: One primary emphasis of new coach Darnell Jackson during summer workouts is conditioning. Players have said that they've never been in better shape, which could pay off in those grind-it-out-type of games this fall.
UP FRONT ON 'O': How quickly a young offensive line and inexperienced quarterback are able to put things together will tell how far the Rangers can go this year.