“I want a bigger spot to serve more of the community, but I don’t have any plans to leave the southside of Tucson. This is where I was born and raised. A lot of people said I was crazy for starting this on the southside. They said I wouldn’t succeed. That’s the worst thing you could tell me, that I can’t do something.” — Bobby Rodriguez in an interview with AllSportsTucson.com in August of last year.
Bobby Rodriguez’s transition last week of his Jet Sports Training operation to a new location on the south side, just around the block from his first site, strengthens the strongest muscle, the heart.
Not just his heart, but the heart of the community of which he was raised.
“We’re fortunate to have all of Tucson come here, especially the southside,” Rodriguez said. “I really believe that this community on this side of town needed something like this.”
The new location is at 4221 S. Santa Rita Ave. (Unit 103), only about a third of a mile from 1110 E Pennsylvania St., where Rodriguez and some of his coaching associates opened the first location in 2017.
In the new facility on this day weight training were high school-age football players from Amphi, Desert View, Flowing Wells and Salpointe. A group of 8- to 10-year-olds were adjacent to them executing running drills. On the other side of the vast facility, which is more than 5,500 square feet, about three times the size as the previous location, were four brothers Adrian, Julian, Christian and Gabriel Diaz undergoing a workout routine with Rodriguez.
They are two sets of twins. Adrian and Julian are freshman football players at Salpointe. Christian and Gabriel are seventh-grade flag-football standouts who are also part of the Tucson Raiders association in the Tucson Youth Football and Spirit Federation. All four are also part of the successful Tucson Turf Elite Youth Football that is known for its champion flag football and 7-on-7 teams.
The Diaz kids are an example of the family atmosphere that takes place within Rodriguez’s facility.
The bustling of activity in only one hour is an example of what takes place daily at Jet Sports Training. The name “Jet” comes from Rodriguez’s nickname at Sunnyside and Arizona, where he walked on to Mike Stoops‘ football team, because of his speed.
Rodriguez mentioned the larger space of the new facility is “important because we’re growing in clientele of athletes who are preparing for next season — football, basketball, wrestling, softball, you name it — so it gives us more access to tend to those athletes.”
Rodriguez has seven coaches on his staff including Jose Felix, Sam Medina, Trevelle Hill, Rebecca Rodriguez, Marla Burgos, Anthony Peralta and Antonio Rosales.
Rosales is a lineman with the Tucson Sugar Skulls, a professional indoor football team that is hoping COVID-19 will not delay the start of training camp next month. The team’s operations were canceled last year because of the pandemic. He is a former Tucson High School football standout who went on to play for San Diego State.
Rosales, who stopped by to check out the new facility on this day, became acquainted with Jet Sports Training through Felix, who was a volunteer coach with the Sugar Skulls when Rosales moved back to Tucson from San Diego.
“What really attracted me to come in here and stay here was — as you can see — they are all about the community; I’m all about the community myself,” Rosales said. “Unfortunately, I feel like a lot of gyms kind of are just money hungry and kind of don’t realize the impact they can have on the youth and just the community overall.
“We’re not just making better athletes, we’re teaching life lessons too. We’re stressing school and being successful young men and young women. That’s what we’re all about here.”
Rosales, who also trains in the facility, is just one of countless current college or pro athletes who take part in Rodriguez’s workouts.
The list of athletes who have trained at Jet Sports Training include Arizona and Arizona State football players, Los Angeles Chargers receiver Jeff Cotton (Mountain View and Pima College standout), former Salpointe standout Bijan Robinson (now at Texas), Cholla grad Daniel Robledo (now a lineman with Missouri) and Sunnyside wrestling greats Roman Bravo-Young (Penn State two-time All-American) and Jesse Ybarra (freshman standout at Iowa).
Jet Sports Training’s slogan is “Cultivating Champions.”
One of its ads states, “No other gym in Tucson trains more All-Region, All-State Athletes, City Champions, State Champions, National Champions, High School and College All-American Athletes, and Professional Athletes than Jet Sports Training.”
“Jet Sports Training has been a huge impact on my strength and my speed,” Amphi Class of 2022 standout running back Kiko Trejo said. “Working on some drills they do in the NFL as well that I need to work on to get our timing right. We do a lot of weight training. You put a lot in, you get a lot out, so you’ve got to give a lot of effort.”
Felix, who along with Rodriguez played football at Sunnyside in the 2000’s under the legendary Richard Sanchez, went from overseeing Trejo and the high school football players weight train to administering the running drills for the 8- to 10-year-olds.
He has been with Rodriguez every step of the way from when Rodriguez’s vision of helping youths on the southside with fitness training became a reality in 2017 at the previous facility.
“(Rodriguez) was an upperclassman when I was there (at Sunnyside), so I saw them reign as a football team. They were really well known as a football team, so we played football and he was pretty much the face of it,” Felix said. “I was a freshman and he was a junior so I looked up to him in that aspect.
“Down the road, we bumped into each other. We were both doing pretty much the same thing. He had his deal going on with Jet, started at (Quincey Douglas Park). I had my own little click of kids training with strength and conditioning. We just decided to find a spot and the rest is history.”
Rodriguez’s rise to where he has Jet Sports Training is an example of what the young athletes he trains can become if they are diligent and consistent like him.
He excelled in football and wrestling at Sunnyside and was a member of Arizona’s football team throughout his four years of education there despite being 5-foot-7 and about 155 pounds.
He moved to Brazil to train jiujitsu while living with an aunt there. He entered into mixed martial arts competition. He combines the training techniques of what he learned from jiujitsu with the regimen he experienced with wrestling and football.
His competitive nature took him from growing up by the Tucson Rodeo Grounds, off Sixth Avenue, to going inside that arena and becoming part of the Professional Bull Riders Association.
All of this from a kid who grew up with modest means on the southside.
He’s come a long way from the days when his late grandmother Natalia Armijo, who died from COVID-19 last year, raised him since he was 3 after his parents split.
The arduous days have paid off of when he was in middle school running on the loose dirt of the bed of the Santa Cruz River and up the challenging Tumamoc Hill under the watchful eye of his youth football coach Art Olivas.
“My parents helped out with my upbringing, my grandmother as well,” Rodriguez said. “I played one year of Pop Warner Football and my coach (Olivas) showed me how to train in the beginning and that helped me segue into high school, and at Sunnyside, obviously we were winning state titles and competing every year.
“Coach Sanchez, he really instilled a mindset into me that I have to this day, so I owe everything to that man because he showed me the way and I get to share that with the community now.”
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon.