The moment certainly did all it could to try and get away from Jazlyn Rodriguez.
There she was Saturday on the home field of the Dallas Cowboys, AT&T Stadium in Arlington, Texas. It was halftime of the Big 12 Conference Championship and a national television audience waited to see her performance ... if not watch her fall flat on her face in throwing footballs against a male opponent.
“It was crazy,” Rodriguez said. “I was, like, ‘OK, just breathe …’ I said some quick prayers and I was thinking about my favorite songs.”
But the freshman at TCU and 2019 Mullen graduate never blinked, flinched or caved. Competing head-to-head, Rodriguez converted 17 footballs (in 19 attempts) through the hole of a giant soda can to win the Dr. Pepper Tuition Challenge of the Big 12 and was handed a big check for $100,000 to continue her education.
“I almost couldn’t believe it,” she said.
Rodriguez, who advanced to Saturday’s final after being one of two to go through Friday’s rounds, smartly two-handed her attempts. She can thank her preparation.
“I did all the research I could,” she said. “I watched videos, talked with other people and was looking at how others were doing it. I even read some articles.”
Probably the deciding factor in her advancement, she said, “was I was trying not to force myself to be a quarterback. I’m not a quarterback.”
She was, however, in charge of her efforts and added that working with a TCU football helped her “perfect my stance, keep my elbows under my chest and my arms throwing a certain way, all of that good stuff. I was trying to have good technique.”
Afterward when presented with the check, Rodriguez said she repeated herself about being blessed “because it was hard to hear in there” and she thanked her family as well as Mullen for preparing her for her next attempt at education. The video Mullen posted and sent her well, she said, provided a lot of encouragement.
“When I saw it,” she said, “I cried and was so happy and felt so loved ... even now, so many people are messaging me and talking to me. It’s so nice.”
And winning six figures toward education carries significant meaning for a student who needs it.
“I was using my graduation money to pay tuition,” Rodriguez said. “It definitely will help me out so much. I can go to school and not worry about making payments. Now, as a student, I can perform at my best.”