Big Man ‘Rod’ Ready to Roll

By Randy Lefko Sports Editor
Posted 7/21/21

ORANGE PARK - It is ironic that a dominant offensive lineman thanks a dominant defensive lineman for making him change his attitude.

“I give a lot of the credit to Kendy Charles, the All State …

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Big Man ‘Rod’ Ready to Roll

Posted

ORANGE PARK - It is ironic that a dominant offensive lineman thanks a dominant defensive lineman for making him change his attitude.

“I give a lot of the credit to Kendy Charles, the All State defensive end that was here at Orange Park, for taking me aside and making me think right about my football,” said Orange Park High junior offensive tackle Roderick Kearney, a massive 6’-4”, near 300 pounds athletically-gifted junior football player for the Raiders. “All the talking about me makes just work harder. I still just grind.”

Kearney, an incoming giant as a freshman to the Raider program, needed some guidance to corral all of his energy and forwardness as one of the biggest football players to come out of Orange Park Junior High.

“Kendy Charles, Kendy Charles changed me,” said Kearney. “I was having attitude everyday and not wanting to listen to people because I was always the biggest guy around. He taught me to trust the process.”

Orange Park High football coach Tom Macpherson noted that what Charles, now at Liberty University, brought to the equation was that big is not always a better football product.

“Rod had size and ability but was a little awkward as an incoming freshman,” said Macpherson, who has coached the likes of All Stater and University of Kentucky offensive tackle standout Ramsey Meyers as a Ridgeview High coach in his early tenure. “Kendy gave Rod his work ethic and acted as a role model. He had the same sense of what hard work does and attacking the weight room. He is mature enough now to know that he sets the tone for the team.”

Kearney agreed that Charles was a big step in correcting his attitude.

“It just didn’t work because I was big that I would dominate at the high school level,” said Kearney, who has a handful of NCAA Division I offers; Florida State, Miami and Central Florida most recent, already on his list. “He forced me to work on my technique and make my craft better everyday to get me where I am at.”

Not only was Charles perfecting Kearney’s attitude to the game, he was punishing Kearney everyday in practice.

“Playing against an All State guy everyday in practice makes you either get better or get dominated,” said Kearney, who has a bench press of 315. “Coach Rand (Eric Rand, former Oakleaf High player) has been a key to paying attention to the fine points of my position; the hand position, the foot placement for leverage and understanding what was coming from the defensive side.”

In 2020, Orange Park (4-6) nearly pulled off a miracle finish after opening with four losses, but finishing with two playoff games and a re-establishment of the historically strong Raider run game.

“We know that the Gravediggers were the name for the offensive line for a long time at Orange Park and we hoped to bring our own nickname,” said Kearney. “We kind of like the Trench Dogs as a nickname.”

Kearney has been very vocal about having the four guys on the line with him all on the same wavelength.

“I communicate a lot with my guys because I want to dominate from tackle to tackle,” said Kearney. “I try and go out to dominate and the other guys are coming along and following suit. We want to unload the running game.”

Around the roster, Kearney liked fellow juniors JoJo Restall, Brian Green and Nolan Chambers as his go-to guys.

“They are my friends and my wing men on the field,” said Kearney. “We came in together and want to go out big here.”

From the college scene, Kearney said his grade point average has been his biggest (pun intended) selling point.

“They like the way I move, but most of the coaches have told me my GPA is impressive,” said Kearney. “Only on the field am I nasty and mean. It’s a whole different world when I leave the locker room and step on the field.”

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