At the end of the day, when he’s done working with the Arizona Wildcats quarterbacks, UA coach Rich Rodriguez drives to his Catalina Foothills home to teach one more signal-caller.
This one doesn’t have to worry about college until 2017. Though he’s not yet old enough to drive, Rodriguez’s student is trying to pick apart high school defenses made up of players three or four years older than him.
And of all the quarterbacks Rodriguez has instructed over the years, this student may be his most eager one.
His son, Rhett, was born to play the position.
“I try to talk to him every night,” said Rhett, a freshman at Catalina Foothills High School. “I try to go through our plays and see what’s similar with our offense and Arizona’s offense. He tells me about all the coverages and all the different things defenses will do.”
A shotgun start for the son of a man who loves the shotgun.
“I wish there was a little bit more zone read in our offense, but it’s been a great process,” a joking and smiling Rhett Rodriguez said.
A little more than seven miles southwest of Foothills, the heart and soul of the Salpointe Catholic High School defense learned his trade from a man who knows defense like Rodriguez knows offense.
Jake Casteel, the 5-foot-10-inch, 200-pound son of UA defensive coordinator Jeff Casteel and a senior at Salpointe, began doing linebacker drills in his backyard in Morgantown, W.V., with his dad in the fifth grade.
Since, he’s developed into one of the best high school players in Tucson. He’s taken on the traits of his father. The younger Casteel is tough, quiet, easy to be around and intense — like his dad.
“Since he was a little guy, he’s wanted to play football,” Jeff Casteel said. “It’s fun to watch him. It’s been fun to watch him grow into a young man and into a football player.
“Obviously I think every parent thinks their kid is a good kid, but he’s a really good one and he’s an easy-going guy and he gets along with everyone.”
The two high schoolers have taken on their fathers’ personalities, both on and off the field.
Rich and Rhett
The younger Rodriguez is in the mix to be the Falcons’ starting quarterback when the team opens its season Thursday. He got his first taste of varsity football this past week when he led the offense on about 15 plays in a scrimmage against Tucson High.
He threw two touchdowns and already understands the offense the way a senior should.
“He picks things up at the speed of light,” Foothills coach Jeff Scurran said. “I noticed it right way. I’ll talk about some concept and he starts talking about, ‘Oh, when we were at West Virginia and we were playing Miami, we used to do the same thing.’
“And it’s just like, ‘Rhett, you were 8 years old.’”
When Scurran called Rita Rodriguez to tell her that her son would be starting against Tucson, she had a lighthearted piece of advice for the veteran coach.
“My wife was funny because when the coach said, ‘Hey, he might be starting,’ I think the first thing she said was ‘well, you know, he likes the shotgun,’” Rich Rodriguez said. “She’s not being a coach’s wife there; she’s being a mom.
“He doesn’t seem like a nervous kid, but I’m sure his mom and I will be nervous for him when he plays his first real game.”
Rhett, 15, dabbled at receiver when he first started playing football. Then he migrated to quarterback .
Rhett watched each of the QBs his dad has tutored from West Virginia’s Pat White to Michigan’s Denard Robinson to the UA’s Matt Scott. He used to wear No. 5 for White and has tried to pick up something from all of them over the year in preparation for what’s coming on Thursday.
“I’ve just learned from (Rodriguez) and all the quarterbacks he’s coached that you have to be a leader,” Rhett said. “Whether you lead by example or words, you have to find that right mix. I love to talk to all of those guys he’s coached.”
Jeff and Jake
The Casteel men do their best bonding in the summer when they vacation in Deep Creek Lake in Maryland.
“That’s the most relaxed I’ll see him,” Jake said. “We’ll golf together and that’s when he’s most relaxed — when he’s not around football and not thinking about it.
“And make sure you put in the article that I always beat him when we golf together.”
Like the competitive and intense man he is, the UA’s defensive coordinator couldn’t let his son have that one.
“That’s a straight lie; he’s lying to you,” Jeff said. “He might have beaten me once in three years. He and I started golfing when we had some buddies in West Virginia. I thought it would be a good opportunity to go hang out with him for three or four hours. We both really enjoy it, just neither one of us get a chance to play a lot.
“He hits it farther than me, but he just doesn’t hit it straight.”
During the season, there isn’t as much football talk between the two as you would think.
When football is the topic of discussion, it’s usually Jake who initiates it.
“If I have a question about something, I’ll ask him, but, mostly it’s just me asking how practice went for him and then I’ll tell him what we’ve been doing,” Jake said.
Jeff said it’s important for him to let the coaches at Salpointe do their job and for him not to interfere. Jake started at middle linebacker Saturday night in the Lancers’ season-opener and was a first-team All-Daily Star pick last season as a junior.
“I want to see him do well and I know it’s really important to him to do well,” Jeff Casteel said.