- Unlike the TV villain who shares his nickname, Mitch Rodrigue
gets tons of respect from the cast of characters he coaches.
him Boss Hog," says Jim Hicks, center for The University of
Southern Mississippi football team.
Is it because
the Golden Eagles' offensive line coach likes to scarf down barbeque
ribs like the rascally raconteur on the old show "Dukes of
No, says Hicks,
smiling: "We're the hogs, and he's the boss."
life on the trough. That's where Rodrigue finds himself after three
seasons spent working with tight ends, some of whom look positively
svelte next to their beefy counterparts on the front line.
who's played and coached offensive line most of his career, the
move is a perfect fit. In fact - to continue the metaphor - he's
happier than, well, a pig in slop.
is where I'm most at home," says Rodrigue, 38, who in addition
to tight ends also coached running backs at Southern Miss in 1999.
is where Rodrigue is most accustomed, and after losing three seniors
to last year's NFL draft - Torrin Tucker, Jeremy Bridges and Jason
Jiminez - it's where he's going to have the biggest challenge. Perhaps
better than anyone, Rodrigue knows all the offensive firepower in
the world won't amount to much if the backfield is getting hammered.
of the offensive line is critical to our success," Rodrigue
says. "The quarterback - no matter how good he is - can't complete
a pass if we're not blocking for him."
might not have the experience at offensive line right now, but Rodrique
says it has the talent. And every day on the practice field, in
the weight room and in his office, he's instilling in them the same
attitude with which he played at Nicholls State. There he helped
the Colonels win the 1984 Gulf Star Conference title and reach the
second round of the Division 1-AA playoffs in 1986.
"emotional coach" on the field, Rodrigue says: "You
can't coach this position and not get real enthusiastic about their
success. Other positions can kind of lie back and wait, but the
offensive line needs to be hands-on."
wife, Deidi, and the father of three children - Maci, Madden (not
named after the famous football coach, he insists) and Mallori -
Rodrigue is currently in his second stint at Southern Miss. His
first was between 1989-90, when he served as a graduate assistant
under former head coach Curley Hallman. From there, Rodrigue went
back to his alma mater, where he coached for several seasons, helping
the Colonels develop the top passing game in the Southland Conference.
An all-district performer out of Thibodaux High School in Louisiana,
he played one season at Copiah-Lincoln Community College.
"The fact that he's been there before and done it makes it
easy to trust him. It's hard to be a believer in someone's system
if they've never been there before."
new talent isn't the only challenge - Rodrigue is also teaching
a new system. Gone are the terms, the plays and even the snap count
from last season. However, Rodrigue thinks that can be used to his
advantage because teaching "old hogs" new tricks is never
there is a change of coaches, it's a tough transition, especially
on the offensive line. But it can be a plus with a bunch of new
guys because they aren't having to relearn any new terminology,"
When he first
came to Southern Miss in 1999 as running backs coach, Rodrigue tasted
success early. That year the Golden Eagles won the Liberty Bowl,
which features Conference USA's champion. It's also the last time
they won it, and Rodrigue is hungry again.
in with a lot of the freshmen who are seniors this year, like Rod
Davis, and I feel like we're on a mission together. We've got a
real good shot at success because this team has so much chemistry,
and that's crucial if you're going to reach such high goals,"
the Boss would love nothing more than to take his Hogs back to Memphis
for the Liberty Bowl. After all, it's the town that made barbeque