Power receiver's goals have special ring

Jerry DiPaola
| Friday, Aug. 1, 2014, 11:40 p.m.

ORLANDO, Fla. — The question gave Power wide receiver Prechae Rodriguez pause.

He wasn't sure which achievement he would prefer: winning a championship in the Arena Football League or defeating Alabama.

But you must understand: Rodriguez played at Auburn, where games against Alabama approach religious proportions.

“Alabama-Auburn is bigger,” he said, “but for me, personally, I never won a ring before. This is something that is important to me.”

The Power begin their quest for the Foster Trophy — the prize awarded to the winner of ArenaBowl XXVII — at 2 p.m. Sunday in a first-round playoff game at CFE Arena in Orlando against Rodriguez's former teammates, the Predators.

The game provides a chance for Rodriguez's 5-year-old son, Meliano, who lives in Tampa, to see his father play football for the first time this season.

Plus, it reunites Rodriguez with Predators defensive backs and former teammates Anthony Shutt and Erick McIntosh, who know what has made him one of the most productive wide receivers in the AFL the past three seasons.

“They know what I bring to the table, and I know what they bring,” Rodriguez said. “I'm expecting to win every time, every play.”

Relatively new to indoor football — he never played before 2012 — Rodriguez has been with three teams in three seasons, averaging about a touchdown every third catch (329 receptions, 105 scores).

After catching 244 passes for 7,267 yards and 73 touchdowns in Tampa and Orlando in 2012-13, he approached Predators management about a trade.

Wary about shaky ownership — the league operated the franchise this season before recently selling it to timeshare mogul David Siegel — Rodriguez wanted a fresh start.

He preferred going to Tampa or Jacksonville to remain close to family, but he said former Power coach Derek Stingley pushed last winter to get Rodriguez in Pittsburgh.

Finally, the Power got Rodriguez by trading offensive lineman Ben Ossai and defensive lineman Markell Carter to Orlando.

Ossai had been acquired by the Power in a deal that sent receiver and former Aliquippa star Mike Washington to Spokane.

“I liked coach Stingley, and I wanted to be part of what he was trying to build,” Rodriguez said.

The season didn't start well for Stingley or Rodriguez. The coach was fired after one game, and the player suffered a high ankle sprain March 29 that forced him to miss seven consecutive games.

Rodriguez returned May 24 in a 62-61 victory at Orlando, catching 13 passes for 148 yards and four touchdowns.

But he wasn't completely healed, and he missed one more game before scoring 21 touchdowns among 48 receptions in the past six.

Rodriguez and his teammates are eager for redemption, believing their previous effort in Orlando wasn't close to their best. The Predators' point total was the third most this season against the Power, who needed a touchdown reception by Hank Edwards with one second left to win.

Linebacker James Bryant pointed out it was the first game defensive back Virgil Gray missed with his high-ankle sprain, fullback Tommy Taggert was out and nose guard Justin Lawrence (leg) and Rodriguez played through pain.

“We went down there with a wounded battleship,” Bryant said.

All four of those players are healthy now.

“It's going to be a problem to stop us,” Bryant said.

“The Predators are division champs,” Rodriguez said. “We are going to go in there and spoil it for them.”

Jerry DiPaola is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. Reach him at jdipaola@tribweb.com or via Twitter @JDiPaola_Trib.

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