Rich Rodriguez grew up in coal mining country, tiny Grant Town, W. Va. His father, Vince Rodriguez, worked in the mines for 27 years.
“The toughest person I have ever known is my dad,” he told me the day his hiring was announced at Arizona.
“He dropped out of high school. My grandfather was a coal miner, he came over from Spain. All my uncles, my brother, were in the coal mines. I went in there when I was in the seventh grade, and I said, ‘This ain’t for me. I got to do something else.'”
Rich was always into sports, always into competing, always into keeping score … and the toughness required came straight from dad. Rich announced Tuesday on Twitter that his father has passed away.
Appreciate the thoughts and prayers for the passing of my dad-Vince -he was the hardest working, toughest man I know. #originalHardEdge
“He didn’t say a whole lot, but when he did say something you’d think about what he said,” Rodriguez told our Steve Rivera for a 2012 story on FoxSportsArizona.com.
“For someone who has never coached and never been in this profession, he has a pretty good perspective on things. He observes a lot and understands people; he understands the toughness and what it takes.”
Rodriguez told John U. Bacon in the book “Three and Out: Rich Rodriguez and the Michigan Wolverines in the Crucible of College Football” that the family lived modestly when he was growing up — “not that I knew it,” he added.
“We never went on vacations. Our house had no heat upstairs. I wore three sweat suits at night. And you’d wake up to see ice on the windows — on the inside. But we always had everything we needed, and everyone loved playing sports. That saved me.”
Rodriguez told Rivera in 2012 that he had been told his father was a “really good high school player” in football but didn’t get the opportunity to continue playing.
“He probably had a chance to play in college, but before college his mom and dad divorced and so he didn’t finish because he had to support her,” Rich said.
Rich also told Rivera that his father had undergone a quadruple bypass surgery at some point.
“By the time, I got there he was already tubed up and had the surgery,” Rich said. “When they took (the breathing tube) out, he said to me, ‘If they didn’t have me tied down, I would have taken that damn tube and ripped it out.'”
Also from Rivera:
Rich recalled a story from 2002, in his second year at West Virginia, when he invited his parents to join him in his first bowl game: The Mountaineers vs. Virginia in the Continental Bowl in Charlotte, N.C.
At the team hotel, Mom and Dad were in the staying in the room next to Rich.
“He asked if I had any beer in my refrigerator,” Rich said, smiling, “and I said, ‘Yeah, but there is some in yours, too, isn’t there?’ He said, ‘Yes, but those are like $6 a bottle, so I’ll just drink yours.'”
As Rich mourns his father’s passing, here’s a toast to Vince Rodriguez.