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BILLY RODRIGUEZ

Inducted: 2015 - Player

Current Home: Boston, Mass.

 

As the only man who starred on two of the biggest dynasties in the history of Open Ultimate, NY, NY and Boston’s Death or Glory, the legacy and achievements of Billy Rodriguez are unparalleled; 10 National championships, 4 in a row with New York, then 6 in a row with Boston’s Death or Glory. Along the way he also notched 5 WFDF World Championships titles. Always surrounded by superstars, Billy was never the center of attention, yet thrived in his supporting role of stifling defense and transition offense. Billy exemplified quiet greatness. He wasn’t showy, loud, or brash, just superb. His man-to-man defense was both physical and intellectual. As an athlete, Billy covered the best players in the biggest moments. As a cerebral player, Billy outsmarted dominant throwers, cutting off angles, baiting them into blocks, and masterfully guiding offensive flow into dangerous defensive traps. He showcased this unusual talent as a wing on zone D, proving he was one of the best at that position to ever play the game. His transition offense was impeccable; he was a high percentage thrower and playmaking cutter under pressure and took charge, when needed, with focus and fitness. In addition to Billy’s great competitive success, he was also one of the most respected and admired on and off the field. Billy was a humble, selfless, and gracious sportsman, supremely gifted at making everyone around him better by bringing the highest standard of excellence practice after practice, game after game, year after year.

         


Playing Career | US Nationals | WFDF Worlds | Contributions and Service | Interview

Playing Career

1982 - 1985    Brown University   Providence, RI
1986 - 1987   Elvis from Hell    Houston, TX
1988     Boston, MA
1989 - 1992   New York    New York, NY
1994 - 2006   Death or Glory (DoG)   Boston, MA


WFDF World Ultimate Championship Tournaments

Team   City   Div   Year   Event   Placement
U.S. (New York)   New York, NY   Open   1990   WUGC   Gold
New York   New York, NY   Open   1991   WUCC   Gold*
DoG   Boston, MA   Open   1995   WUCC   Silver
U.S. (DoG)   Boston, MA   Open   1996   WUGC   Gold
U.S. (DoG)   Boston, MA   Open   1998   WUGC   Bronze
DoG   Boston, MA   Open   1999   WUCC   Gold
U.S. (DoG)   Boston, MA   Open   2000   WUGC   Gold
U.S.   n/a   Mixed   2001   World Games   Silver
DoG   Boston, MA   Open   2002   WUCC   Silver

 
* on roster but injured and did not participate

 

US National Championship Tournaments  

Team    City   Division    Year    Placement
New York   New York, NY   Open   1989   Champion
New York   New York, NY   Open   1990   Champion
New York   New York, NY   Open   1991   Champion
New York   New York, NY   Open   1992   Champion
Death or Glory   Boston, MA   Open   1994   Champion
Death or Glory   Boston, MA   Open   1995   Champion
Death or Glory   Boston, MA   Open   1996   Champion
Death or Glory   Boston, MA   Open   1997   Champion
Death or Glory   Boston, MA   Open   1998   Champion
Death or Glory   Boston, MA   Open   1999   Champion
Death or Glory   Boston, MA   Open   2000   3T
Death or Glory   Boston, MA   Open   2001   3T
Death or Glory   Boston, MA   Open   2002   3T
Death or Glory   Boston, MA   Open   2003   5T
Death or Glory   Boston, MA   Open   2004   5
Death or Glory   Boston, MA   Open   2005   3T
Death or Glory   Boston, MA   Open   2006   7T

 
 

 

BRodriguez 1989Nats (Karl Cook)
Billy with the block on Bob Sick at 1989 Nationals 
PHOTO CREDIT: Karl Cook
  1989Nats (Hyslop)
Billy on defense at 1989 Nationals 
PHOTO CREDIT: Dan Hyslop
     
BRodriguez  1990 Nats (Hyslop)
Billy on defense at 1990 Nationals
PHOTO CREDIT: Dan Hyslop 
 

Contributions and Service 

  • I served on the Competition Committee for WFDF for 2-3 years, in ~1999-2001
     
  • I was the Captain of the first US World games team in 2001, and represented (at the time UPA) in the planning process and in Japan.
     
  • I coached several women’s teams: MIT women (2002-2004) [we lost in the college women’s finals in 2002, finished 5th and 7th in the other years] ; Lady Godiva (2007-2008); Brute Squad (2010-2012) [lost in US women’s finals, and in quarters]

 

     

Interview

Q: What position(s) (e.g., handler, deep cutter, middle-middle) did you usually play?

A: It varied over the course of my career, but I was primarily a middle cutter on Elvis from Hell, a deep cutter on New York, a deep and middle cutter on DoG. I was also a go to cutter on offense for Dog whenever our starting O struggled. On defense, I played everywhere and covered everyone.

Q: Describe your major accomplishments – both as a teammate and an individual player?

A: As both an individual and a teammate, my major accomplishments were going 80-0 in my first 80 games at Nationals, winning 10 national championships and going 10-0 in the Finals. We also won 5 World Championships in that run, and probably the hardest task, and most significant team accomplishment, was the "double championships" in 1990, 1991, and 1996—peaking twice to win Worlds in the summer and Nationals in the fall. 1996 was probably an unprecedented year—we won both the World Championship and the Spirit-of-the-Game award (I believe the only time a US Men’s team has ever won it at Worlds?), and came back 3 months later to win US Nationals, when all the other US men’s teams were healthy and rested. As a teammate, my most significant accomplishment was to "fill-in-the-blanks"—doing whatever needed to be done to give my team the best chance to win, and to play all out all the time, and to never have an off day.  On the leadership side, my major accomplishment was probably in moving from New York to our (hated) arch-rival, Boston, and being named a Captain in my second year there. More broadly, I brought structure to defensive strategy in both new York and Boston, implementing defensive fundamentals and a man-to-man defensive philosophy that is now widely taught throughout the sport, defining zone positioning, the ‘Clam’ defense and similar match-up zones, and bringing defensive strategy to a higher level.
 

Q: Why did you stand out among the elite players of your time?  What was it that you did best, or were known for? 

A: What was it that you did best, or were known for?  I was considered the best defensive player in the game, or at least in the top 2 or 3, for about 10-12 years, into my late 30s. I was known for a physical and relentless style of man defense that never crossed a line, but consistently took the top players off their game. I was counted on to cover the other team’s best player, whether they were a handler with big throws, a middle cutter with elite quickness, or a 6’7" deep threat, and, even while covering the best players, to generate lay out blocks and key defensive turnovers at critical moments in big games. In addition, I played both deep and wing positions in zones and match-up zones, and was known for shutting down large areas of the field, and generating off-man blocks. On offense, I was also known for fast break goals, scripted deep cuts off pull plays for goals, and as a go-to cutter for goal scoring cuts in the end zone offense.  I was known for elite speed on both D and O that made me a tough match-up. I also played better the later the game and the higher the stakes, when the game was on the line. My Boston teammates know me for never letting up, and getting everyone to believe we were going to play our best when the stakes were highest and come out on top.
 

Q: What role did you play on the best (or most overachieving team) that you played on?

A: The New York teams were some of the best men’s teams of all time, but hardly overachieving; I was a defensive starter and counted on to cover the biggest downfield threat in every game. On Boston, we had a few overachieving years—we didn’t always have the best talent in the country, but kept winning. My role was as defensive captain and shut-down defender, as well as a primary cutter on the transition O, and a catalyst to the starting O when the top 2 cutters were struggling. Our most overachieving year was at 1999 Worlds, where we took a depleted squad without 7 of our top players, and managed to hold off everyone else and come away with the championship, despite a roster packed with young players who had never competed at Worlds before. I was the captain of that squad, and on the field for every D point and about 50% o the O points throughout the quarters, semis, and finals. 
 

Q: What year was the peak of your career? During which years were you playing as the "stud" of your team? If you continued playing after your peak years, how did your role change? In what year did you stop playing at the top competitive level?

A: It’s hard to say when I peaked; I rode a high-level wave individually and as a teammate from 1989-2000. My best seasons were probably 1989, 1991, 1995, 1996, and 1999, when I was healthiest, as I played a few other seasons with herniated discs in my back and a torn rotator cuff. I guess 1996 was the peak, although I was playing as a defensive stud for New York from 1989 on. I think probably the accomplishment I’m as proud of as the championships was to continue playing elite defense through 2006, my last year competing at an elite level. I was 41 at the time, but still starting on D, covering the best players in the game, and generating turnovers.
 

Q: Why do you believe you are worthy of being inducted into the Ultimate Hall of Fame?

A: I believe I was one of the best, and perhaps the best, defensive players in the history of the sport, and perhaps proved the adage that offense wins glory and defense wins championships. I probably hold some records that will be broken some day, but maybe not for a long time—10 open national championships, an 80-game winning streak at Nationals. As an individual, probably my most impressive stats are my goal-to-turnover ratio at Nationals—I think I scored more than 120 goals with ~25 turnovers in 17 years of Nationals competition. Less heralded, but equally worthy, I think, was my role in establishing the fundamental principles of defense, and changing defensive strategy for elite teams—essentially, almost every elite team began to adopt DoG’s strategies after we rolled them out. And perhaps most importantly, while I was a tough, intense competitor, I was a fierce adherent to the Spirit of the Game, and I believe had wide respect from teammates and opponents alike throughout the country for fair, spirited play over a 24-year playing career. 

 

 

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