Linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez has made a lot of changes in his athletic career, and the net result is the positive impact they have made.
The evidence of that is the impression Rodriguez has made in the Lions' rookie minicamp. He's gotten a positive review from head coach Dan Campbell – with a note of caution that a couple days of practice do not guarantee anything for the sixth-round draft pick from Oklahoma State.
"It's Day 1 here," Campbell said Saturday. "I know this: He looks the part. I mean, he is in excellent shape, and he's been training.
"These guys have been training for the Combine – all of them – so they're not in the greatest football shape right now.
"But you can see he's been working, and he certainly looks the part. He seems to be pretty smart, like we thought he would be.
"We'll see where it goes."
Where things stand now for Rodriguez is that he likely will compete for a roster spot. The route to secure that depends on his performance on special teams.
"Special teams are big here," Rodriguez said. "I want to get started on special teams and work my way up into the linebacker room."
At 5-11 and 232 pounds, Rodriguez would be considered an undersized linebacker by most NFL standards.
There are exceptions – and Rodriguez is well aware of at least one. His model linebacker is Bobby Wagner, now with the Rams, who was All Pro six times and made eight Pro Bowls in 10 seasons with the Seattle Seahawks – at an even 6 feet and 242 pounds.
"He's not the biggest guy, but he's one of those smart dudes," Rodriguez said. "If you get the mechanics and get the techniques down, you're able to make plays."
Willingness to put in the work has not been an issue for Rodriguez, regardless of the sport, position or weight required for him to succeed.
He won state wrestling championships his last two years at Wagoner High School, but only after finishing second as a sophomore in the 152-pound weight class.
"It kind of fueled me for my last two years," he said.
He bulked up to 182 pounds as junior and 195 as a senior – and went off to Oklahoma State to play football, where they put him at safety.
View photos from Day 2 of Detroit Lions rookie minicamp on Saturday May 14, 2022 in Allen Park, Mich.
He was shifted to linebacker his last two seasons. The experiences of wrestling and playing safety were invaluable.
"There are a lot of positions in wrestling," he said. "It kind of prepared me to use my instincts."
Playing safety gave him a crash course in defending the pass. He showed a glimpse of that by defending a pass play on a wheel route in Saturday's practice.
"These guys come up on you quick," he said. "You have to be fast and active with your hands."