A popular high school soccer coach from Arlington has died after a prolonged fight against COVID-19, the family says.
Arlington Sam Houston High School coach Joey Rodriguez died Sunday afternoon according to a message shared on social media by his wife Lena Rodriguez.
"My love has entered eternity where he can now be the father to our three babies in heaven. At 5:45 p.m. tonight, the Lord welcomed Joey to his eternal home. Thank you so much for your prayers and support. There will be more words later, but I have very few right now," Lena wrote online. "Such sadness on earth, but rejoicing in heaven. Joey, you are and will always be the strongest man I know."
Rodriguez had been battling COVID-19 for more than a month. NBC 5 spoke with his family in mid-September and learned that several years ago the father of three had been diagnosed with an autoimmune disorder that turned simple colds into pneumonia.
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When Rodriguez tested positive for COVID-19, even though he had been vaccinated, Lena knew it could be serious.
"We're still in public school settings, I'm a public school teacher, our kids are in school and there are no mandates in place. So you kind of almost felt like it was a matter of time because this new variant is so strong," Lena Rodriguez told NBC 5 in September.
Since the school year began the Arlington Independent School Board twice declined to pass a mask mandate citing "personal choice" and the threat of legal action from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton who promised to sue those who ignored Republican Gov. Greg Abbott's ban on mask mandates in schools.
Arlington ISD Superintendent Marcelo Cavazos issued the following statement Monday.
"Today, the Arlington ISD collectively grieves the loss of Coach Joey Rodriguez, Sam Houston High School, who died on Saturday from complications of COVID-19. He coached soccer, and he did so much more. He was a father figure to many students as he inspired them to succeed. He was a mentor and friend to students and staff. Twice, he led his soccer teams to the state championship. He grew the program so rapidly that the district had to hire more coaches so that all of the kids who wanted to learn from Coach Rodriguez could have the opportunity. We remain in prayer for Coach Rodriguez’s wife, children, family, friends and his family at Sam Houston High School."
Rodriguez was placed on a ventilator at Mansfield Methodist Medical Center last month and only his wife was allowed to visit him.
"The first couple of times it was really difficult,” Lena Rodriguez told NBC 5 in September. “To actually see firsthand how ugly this virus and this illness can be to somebody that you love with everything in you, that is part of you, the father of your children."
As Rodriguez continued to fight, his wife visited his soccer team who then sent a signed jersey to be hung in his hospital room.
Funeral arrangements are underway. Lena Rodriguez said on Twitter that her husband's memorial will be held in North Texas "and I would love to see the soccer community celebrate his life and legacy with us."
A GoFundMe campaign has been created to help the family cover the cost of Rodriguez's funeral.