Friday night at the Rodriguez household is all about football. Arizona head coach Rich Rodriguez and family join son and Catalina Foothills High School quarterback Rhett Rodriguez out on the field. It’s not until the next night that the Rodriguez family gets to do it all over again. This time though, Rich and Raquel Rodriguez lead their respective teams out onto the field at Arizona Stadium.
Football was Raquel’s life when she was growing up. Her father, Rich, was one of the most famed college football coaches in the NCAA.
“I can’t go out there and be a linebacker,” Raquel said, laughing.
She just wanted to be a part of the sport that her family cherished. So at the age of 12, Raquel started cheerleading.
“I played a whole lot of different sports growing up but stuck with cheer because that’s how I could stay involved with football and be a part of the game,” she said.
Raquel, now a junior at the UA, was named female captain of the Arizona cheer and mascots program this season, her third year with the team.
“When you are put in the captain position, it forces you to stay true to your values and be a role model for the young girls,” Raquel said. “I just want to make sure that the girls and the guys have the best experience cheering at the best university.”
It’s been a unique experience for Raquel. Not everybody can say their father is the head football coach at the university they currently attend.
“It means a whole lot more because I love my family so much and my team so much. So being able to have both of those together makes that so much more meaningful,” Raquel said. “Next year, my brother will be coming to the UA. That will be even more special because all of us will be out on the same field.”
All Raquel knew as a child was West Virginia and the Mountaineers, where Rich originally hailed as a head coach. She moved to Michigan in middle school, where her father next coached the Wolverines. She moved again to Tucson in high school, and her father took the reins at the UA.
“As soon I would get adjusted to a place, we would move and I would have to adjust from scratch again,” Raquel said. “That was some of the hardest obstacles. I’m so thankful for them because I think I would be very different if I lived in the same town with the same people [my whole life].”
For many parents of UA cheerleaders, they are lucky to attend one game per year.
“My parents get to live it with me,” Raquel said. “We all kind of feel the same thing and that makes it that much more special.”
Since her freshman year, Raquel has stood next to her father in times of challenge and times of victory.
“One of my best ones was winning on the hail mary against [California],” Raquel said. “That’s so unexpected; it was my first year. It was so special to me because my dad had never won a game like that—not on a hail mary.”
The lesson of adversity and getting the job done is one that sticks closely with Raquel and her mother, Rita.
“One of the things you learn at a small school is you are never too big for any job,” Rita said. “One time, I lined the football field. I mean, I was his wife and I was lining the football field. It doesn’t matter your job description—it’s what needs to be done.”
The life of a college football coach takes its toll on those involved and can take time away from a family’s usual activities.
“We have to understand that his time is taken up a lot with the job,” Rita said. “We have to come to him. He can’t always be home at a particular time that we want him to. We feel that being involved in the program is the way to see what Rich is going through. I think that’s worked out for us pretty well.”
In the end, Raquel hopes that Wildcat fans walk away with a sense of pride.
“I hope they have had a positive [experience] in the way that people are more focused on football and coming together as a community to watch the Wildcats on the field,” Raquel said. “They’ve made a positive impact, really, with football, made it relevant again and made these experiences.”
At the end of the day, Raquel is just happy to have Rita, Rich and Rhett.
“Even in times of adversity, seeing him be so strong makes me proud to be his daughter.”
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Video via Arizona Wildcats Youtube, Arizonawildcats.com