Chris Rodriguez’s final season in Lexington did not work out according to plan, but the Wildcats’ workhorse running back will leave Kentucky as the football program’s third-leading rusher of all time.
C-Rod’s place in history became assured Thursday when the senior from McDonough, Ga., announced he would bypass Kentucky’s Dec. 31 appearance in the Music City Bowl to prepare for the NFL Draft.
One day earlier, quarterback Will Levis made the same choice, opting out of the bowl to begin preparations for his pro career.
“Thank you for everything!” Rodriguez said in his Thursday post on Instagram. “I can’t tell you how much your support this past year has meant to me. Although I’m going to sit out the bowl game to focus on my health and prepare for my lifelong dream of playing in the NFL, I’ll be in the Music City to support my brothers and I hope to see you there!”
Rodriguez’s five-year Kentucky career ends with him having amassed 3,644 rushing yards. That leaves him behind only Benny Snell (3,873) and Sonny Collins (3,835) on UK’s all-time list.
Rodriguez rushed for 43 yards as a true freshman in 2018, for 533 as a redshirt freshman, for 785 as a sophomore and for 1,379 as a junior in 2021. As the Southeastern Conference’s leading returning rusher, Rodriguez entered his senior season with a realistic opportunity to eclipse Snell’s record.
Kentucky running back Chris Rodriguez will not play in Music City Bowl, enters NFL Draft. pic.twitter.com/dtlBC14r6Q
— Herald-Leader Sports (@KentuckySports) December 8, 2022
However, Rodriguez was suspended for Kentucky’s first four games in 2022 and finished the season with 904 yards in eight games. Rodriguez finished his career with 32 rushing touchdowns.
Citing student privacy laws, Kentucky declined to provide specifics about why Rodriguez was held out of the first four games.
In September, the Herald-Leader reported UK launched an investigation in February into members of the football team filing inaccurate timecards for jobs worked at the university hospital, according to documents obtained through the state’s open records law. That investigation determined multiple members of the team listed hours worked that they were not present at the hospital for when video surveillance showed them leaving the facility or there was a conflict with class or game schedules. Players, whose names were redacted from a letter sent to the NCAA and provided to the Herald-Leader, were declared ineligible.
UK Athletics Director Mitch Barnhart confirmed to the Herald-Leader there had been an investigation into Rodriguez’s eligibility. Rodriguez also pleaded guilty to a DUI charge in July.
Despite the suspension, Kentucky named Rodriguez one of its team captains before the season opener. He was able to practice with the team throughout the suspension.
“Chris Rodriguez has given an awful lot to this program and has played awfully hard and is an amazing football player,” Barnhart said upon C-Rod’s return to the lineup. “I want to see his career at the University of Kentucky end the right way. For him to be able to run the football, and for that to be the memory of our fans for him.”