JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Adriana Rodrigues is a proud Jacksonville University alumna and former member of the Dolphins' women's soccer team. She suited up for the Green and White for three seasons, and signed her first professional contract shortly after graduation.
During her final season at JU, Rodrigues drilled home the winning penalty kick in the 2013 Atlantic Sun Conference Championship match to send the Dolphins their third, and most recent, NCAA Tournament appearance.
With Jacksonville's 2016 season underway, JUDolphins.com felt it no better time to sit down with the FC Braga midfielder to chat about life after JU, international soccer appearances, and career plans after soccer.
Tell us about your post-JU soccer career.
"Shortly after I graduated in December 2013, I went home to St. Petersburg, Florida, to regroup, refocus and plan my next move. After I achieve a certain goal, in this instance, completing college soccer, earning my bachelor's and publishing my first book at 21 years old, I am quick to form another goal to achieve. In this case, I pulled out my dream since I was three years old – to pursue my professional soccer career.
I quickly was hired in St. Pete, working as a trainer, receptionist, and in charge of classes. After less than a month, my agent came to me with the opportunity to play overseas with a team in Switzerland in the top league.
With amazing support from my family, my job and my friends, I quickly said my good-byes, packed my bags and in three days, was on my flight to Europe. Since I have my passport and citizenship for Portugal, I am allowed to bypass the "American player" rule, where the athlete is only allowed to stay three months in the country with the team.
I played in Switzerland for two and a half years with FC Neunkirch, where we saw the team grow from finishing in fourth place to going to the Cup Final and falling heartbreakingly short. After an impactful and unforgettable experience in Switzerland, I am in the midst of preseason in Portugal to play for FC Braga, in the first league in the country for women's football."
How many countries have you played in?
"In my European professional career, I have played in Switzerland, Germany and now Portugal, but to add up the amazing opportunities I have had traveling with the Brazilian U-17 and Portuguese U-19 and (Women's National) teams is sometimes too many to remember. I have been blessed with the opportunity to see the world, just because I play football.
Along with playing in these countries (Puerto Rico, Chile, Brazil, Portugal, Norway, Denmark, Croatia, Armenia, Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands), I have had the opportunity to be introduced to, integrated in and appreciate the lives of the different cultures of my teammates, German classmates and friends I have encountered along my journey. In my last team alone, we had girls from Slovakia, Germany, Switzerland, England, Canada, Portugal, Italy and the U.S."
I know you have written at least two books. How did that come about, and when will the next book be released?
"I wrote my first book while I was in college. From starting date to the last publication, it took me three years to complete, finishing with great timing at my graduation. Combining soccer, school, the news channel, my Our Game magazine and Top Drawer Soccer internships, I worked on it when I had the time. It began with a creative writing assignment at the University of Florida. My classmates had asked so many questions about a 30-page short story that we had to write that I decided to continue the story and it blossomed over the course of three years into a children's novel. My second book was a product of a year's long writer's block and constant grit and determination to finish the idea and see it through. I finished the book in a year while playing in my first year of professional soccer and attending German classes. My illustrator, whom I met in Switzerland and revamped both covers of my books, and I are currently working on a collection of series children's books, which we are extremely excited about it."
You can follow Adriana's progress on her author's website: doesntjuststayonthefield.wordpress.com.
What is your inspiration for your books?
"Along with just having words flow out of me, I take my own experiences of struggle and perseverance and hope to translate it into my writing. I think that each book, each excerpt, should convey a message of some sort. With Protect These Streets, it was to persevere through hardships and never let your past or where you come from hold you back.
My second book was an idea developed after some time. I wanted to venture into a different genre and see what I could do. Through this project, I discovered that my niche is more related to the first book."
What was your favorite class at JU?
"My favorite class at JU was broadcasting. It was my specialized major and an extremely time-consuming class. I was a complete beginner at the start, having just switched my specialization from print to media, and was eager to learn the rights and wrongs of editing and scriptwriting. My favorite part was to have the quotes (SOTs) from the people I interviewed tell the story. To create the account from their own words and puzzle in video to create a visual and auditory story out of nowhere was an incredible process to be a part of."
What is your favorite soccer memory?
"This is extremely difficult since I have had over 20 years of soccer to pick from! But if I narrow it down to university soccer, my favorite memory would be from my senior year, when we won the Atlantic Sun Conference against FGCU. Our team had worked so hard and 2013 was definitely our year. I still can remember the adrenaline and rush of excitement, gratitude and happiness pumping through me when I slot in the final penalty kick. It was just a cherry on the top that we were arranged to play against my former college, the University of Florida."
How have you used your major/school experience since graduation?
"I majored in broadcast journalism and minored in coaching. Since my graduation, I have not just played soccer. I've gained so many amazing and interesting experiences on different projects or odd jobs. I have edited and created promotional video for an indoor soccer facility, constructed a demonstration video for my own team, edited a promotional/celebratory video for a charity organization in Sri Lanka called Ocean Stars, and put together highlight soccer videos for my teammates, among other things. I have coached and one-on-one trained when I spent some time back home in Florida and started off my career right after graduation at the Y, working all sorts of trades. I see my writing as more of a raw ability that I've had all my life, but college definitely helped me fine tune and shape my skills. I continue to write, constantly coming up with new ideas to start on in hopes to finish and share with the world."
Where do you hope to be in 10 years?
"In 10 years I will be 34. By then, I hope to have transferred my experience as a professional athlete into my work career. Whatever path I may choose, I think I have created a pretty broad set of skills and experiences that I can pass on to another career. I could see myself doing any sort of thing I am passionate about and be happy doing it, whether it be working as a coach, a trainer, an author, a journalist or any combination of it all.
I hope to be able to use my languages that I am developing now into my job. I can currently speak and write in English, Spanish, Portuguese, German and a little Slovakian. A goal of mine that has taken a backseat because of my location is to open an after school facility for under-privileged students in Brazil, giving kids a place where they are sure of at least one meal, opportunity to have soccer sessions where all the equipment is provided, and a secure safe haven to work on their schooling. Another huge dream of mine is to extend my already loving family and become a mother. I have such a passion for children, and I think it would be an inexplicable feeling to have my own."
What advice would you give to current JU student-athletes?
"My advice that I cannot be any more passionate about giving would be to work hard no matter what your status is – injured, star athlete, or bench player. You create your own story; relish in the experiences in college, but don't think they are the highest point. There are so many beautiful experiences to live out. Don't hold back on your studies, your career is a craft, and to be as versatile as possible is the goal. Study just as hard as you work on your sport. Even if your goal is to go professional, your athletic career will eventually end and you have to be prepared with a background to succeed in other fields of life. Never be afraid to set goals and work your butt off for them. Be courageous in your dreams and don't let anyone tell you that you cannot achieve them."
Rodrigues has previously appeared in matches for the Portuguese Women's National Team, most recently in 2015. In three seasons at JU, she had two goals and two assists and saw action in 41 matches with five starts.