By Gabriella “Neptune” Cruz, Texans Talk Editor-in-chief

Juan Carlos Rodriguez said head boys soccer coach, Joey Rodriguez, deserved and earned the right to be in every room he walked into. 

“He was a hard-working kid, from a hard-working family,” he said, drawing inspiration from his cousin’s old YouTube videos. “I think that he connected so much with you guys because he was you guys. He knew what it was like to grow up as we might say in North Abilene, East Arlington, ‘the wrong side of the tracks,’ from hard-working families, nothing given to us, he knew what that was like. And I think that’s why he loved coaching you guys so much.” 

Arlington ISD hosted a celebration of life event for coach Joey Rodriguez Saturday, Oct. 23 at the Arlington Center for Visual and Performing Arts.

Rodriguez passed away Sunday, Oct. 17 from COVID-19 complications. He was 44.

He is survived by his wife, Lena Rodriguez, and his three children, Mila, Lola, and Ezra.

 “My husband was a fighter, not just in his illness but just in life,” Lena said. “He always had to fight for what he wanted. He was a man of words but of noble action. He would want you to be excellent in all you do. He would want you to be patient, show empathy, focus on what you can do for others and don’t be self-serving. He was not self-serving. Influence those around you and leave them better than you found them. Joey did that.”

Rodriguez graduated from Abilene High School in 1995. After graduating, he continued his studies at Hardin Simmons University. During his time at the university, Rodriguez assisted in helping the boys’ soccer team win two championships. 

He joined the SHHS coaching staff in 2009. Under Rodriguez, the Texans made the playoffs last season, making it 14 straight years. The team advanced to the UIL state tournament in 2015 and 2017.

He ended his SHHS tenure with an overall record of 43-14-14.

Long time friend, coach Anthony Criss, said Rodriguez was a great mentor. 

“I used to go into the office all the time,” Criss said. “He was always, always on the phone with somebody else across the state. He was on the phone with somebody across the district. He was on the phone with somebody across the nation, always giving them ideas. Always giving them different scenarios, giving them hints, giving them tips. Always mentoring somebody, he mentored me! Coach Joey Rodriguez, a life well-lived, a life well done, we’re going to miss you, coach Rodriguez. Thank you, we appreciate you and we love you!”

Instead of flowers, the family asks for donations via Venmo: @SHHS_Scholarship for a memorial scholarship fund in Rodgriguez’s honor. The funds will cover three types of student scholarships: athletic, academic, and fine arts.

Gabriella “Neptune” Cruz

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