CHAMPAIGN — Champaign Central boys’ soccer boasted one future Division I athlete during its 2018 season.
Even with that individual graduating next month, the figure will stay the same for the Maroons’ 2019 campaign.
Central junior Santiago Rodriguez — the reigning News-Gazette All-Area Player of the Year — committed to DePaul last Friday after receiving a scholarship offer during one of his two campus visits.
“It’s really flattering,” said Rodriguez of having his first official college offer come from the Chicago-based Division-I institution.
“It makes me feel more confident about my skill,” Rodriguez continued. “That’s a dream I’ve been working toward for a long time.”
The speedy forward led a 21-5 Class 2A sectional finalist in both goals and assists with 30 and 19, respectively.
Rodriguez fueled a quick-strike offense with teammates Pablo Diaz and Reynaldo Zarco to support the goaltending of Illinois-Chicago signee Peter Wagner, to the point where Central coach Nick Clegg said Rodriguez “had an impact in every game that he played.”
After one more run with the Maroons, Rodriguez will bring those talents to Mark Plotkin’s Blue Demons crew.
“I like the direction they want to put the program in,” Rodriguez said. “I just thought I’d fit in well there, and (the coaches) thought so, too.”
Rodriguez said Plotkin and his cohorts indicated they view Rodriguez as a utility player — someone who can line up all over the pitch and do big things regardless of position.
That caught Rodriguez’s attention, as did highly-structured practices that reminded him, to an extent, of what Central does these days.
“They like that I can provide a lot of speed wherever I play,” Rodriguez said. “They think I have a good feel for the game.”
Rodriguez isn’t looking past his remaining time with the Maroons, though.
When asked what his focus will be for his last high school stint, Rodriguez spoke entirely of team results.
No doubt another element Plotkin is glad to be receiving in 2020.
“Sectional final, I want to make it even further than that,” Rodriguez said. “I’m going to try to do everything I can to help us achieve that goal.”