Riverview High School hired Tony Rodriguez as its head football coach in January. (Photo courtesy of Heather Rodriguez.)

The Riverview High School Sharks were looking for new blood after struggling last football season with a 2-8 record. Riverview native Tony Rodriguez is the perfect fit for the program due to being an assistant coach for 15 years and having ties to the community.

The 1994 East Bay High School graduate and former offensive lineman for the Indians always wanted to be a head coach but, admittedly, came in second often when he was a candidate for other jobs, until now. Rodriguez was an assistant coach briefly for Riverview in 2018-19 under then-Head Coach William Mosel in a record-setting season. In January, he finally got the call that he was hoping for. He said that he was fired up, jumping in the air and fist-pumping when he got the phone call from Principal Brian Spiro offering him the job.

“When the opportunity to work here became available, I applied and went through the interview process, and I won for a change,” joked Rodriguez. “I’ve gotten told ‘No’ a hundred times at many different places and this has been the one time that they’ve finally said ‘Yes’ to me. I’m blessed they picked me and I’m excited for the opportunity.”

Rodriguez, in his 14th year of teaching, currently teaches weightlifting at Riverview. Most of his school career was spent at East Bay as a social studies teacher, where he also began coaching football as a running back and offensive line coach. In 2020, he and his wife, Heather, who he met when they attended East Bay, decided to make a drastic change and move to Alabama, where Rodriquez coached at Enterprise High School as a receiver coach under former Apopka High School legendary Head Coach Rick Darlington.

They moved back to Hillsborough County after football season because of a rule that required Heather, a Florida Virtual School teacher, to teach in-state. He spent last season in Manatee County as an offensive coordinator/quarterback coach for Parrish Community, a school that was in the midst of its first year as a varsity program.

“Everything I’ve postured for, every move I’ve made in my coaching career, has always been to make it to where I was acquiring knowledge to jockey for a position to become a head coach,” said Rodriguez. “I wanted to get around good programs to learn what it takes to be a big-time program. I’m definitely a person that has a growth mindset, and I’ve always tried to learn from others and be a sponge in hopes that one day I’d have my own team and apply those things and those experiences to this program.”

Rodriguez hopes that when his players come through his program, they will learn tools for life and leave as better people, and he hopes that they have a great high school experience. He also wants to get his players into college, if they desire, and win a state championship. The team is currently in the midst of its spring season. They will play their intersquad ‘Black vs Blue’ scrimmage on Thursday, May 12 and their spring jamboree against Lennard on Thursday, May 19 at East Bay.

“Coming into this situation, the expectations for a first-year head coach aren’t very high because you have to come in and establish things, change the culture and whatnot,” said Rodriguez. “We’re going to work hard, not thinking that we are in our first year. Our approach is that we are going to win them all. We are going to take each game, one game at a time, and try to go 1-0 each week. And at the end of the season, we’re going to let the chips fall where they may—make our own destiny, so to speak.”

Rodriguez is looking to add coaches to his staff. If you live in the area and are interested in coaching at Riverview, reach out to him at 813-815-0310.

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Nick Nahas
Nick Nahas has written for the Osprey Observer since 2016. He has lived in the Valrico area since 2002 and has his bachelor’s degree in mass communications from the University of South Florida. He is dedicated to covering sports in Hillsborough County at every level.