Every now and then, Prechae Rodriguez thinks back to what could have been.
He imagines himself on a basketball court or on a park pavement, dazzling crowds on a nightly basis with the kind of moves few can comprehend.
In these visions, he’s no longer himself. Instead, he simply goes by “Special Delivery,” a name bestowed upon the 6-foot-4 Rodriguez for his dunking prowess.
The position where the Power wide receiver finds himself today — as one of the Arena Football League’s best wideouts and a key cog on a contending team — is an enviable one, no doubt. Still, he can’t help but wonder how things might have been different if he had signed that contract 11 years ago, one that would have put him on the AND1 Mixtape Tour.
“I always think about that,” Rodriguez said. “What if I took the basketball route? I believe I would have made it.”
Though football has become his livelihood, basketball was a passion for Rodriguez growing up in Tampa, Fla.
The sport always was around him, and he and his brother, Marcelino, built a reputation as two of the city’s best players. Over time, he developed an affinity for the game’s streetball offshoot, one defined by freewheeling ball-handling and acrobatic slam dunks.
Then, in 2003, a dream scenario presented itself. As part of its nationwide circuit, the AND1 tour stopped in Tampa, providing local players with the opportunity to show off their talent.
At the time, the tour was much more than a curiosity. The exhibition games and mixtapes produced by the Philadelphia-area apparel company were a phenomenon, spawning an ESPN show and a Sports Illustrated cover story that dubbed it “a basketball revolution.”
Rodriguez had long hoped to be a part of that movement, and now he had his chance. Along with about 200 others, he participated in its open run, effectively a tryout, and was one of five players selected to play against the AND1 team in a showcase game. He was impressive enough that he was offered a contract.
Though his dream was a signature away, there were obstacles. As a senior in high school, Rodriguez already had a scholarship to play college football and joining the AND1 tour would jeopardize that future and raise legal issues.
Ultimately, he made the only choice he could — pursue football — but the memories linger.
“That’s what everybody dreamed of,” he said. “They wanted to be on TV, to be on the AND1 Mixtape Tour when they come to the city. That’s why they have those open runs to get indoors. It’s a great opportunity. We made the best of it and, hey, we got indoors.”
Rodriguez went on to Coffeyville (Kansas) Community College before playing three seasons at Auburn. Then, he found his way to the Canadian Football League, where he spent four seasons before deciding he wanted to move closer to home and his son, Meliano.
He found a home in the Arena Football League. After a strong stint with the Tampa Bay Storm, Rodriguez set a franchise record with 41 receiving touchdowns for the Orlando Predators last season before being traded to the Power in the offseason.
Though he has been hampered by injuries, missing eight of the team’s 13 games, he has been a valuable presence in the franchise’s turnaround, hauling in 50 passes for 565 yards in five games.
“From the first minute I got here, I was anxious to work with him because I had seen him play before,” Power coach Ron James said. “I knew he was a difference-maker.”
Just as it was while growing up in Tampa, football is far from Rodriguez’s only passion. He recently launched a skateboarding clothing line, Skate Your Life Away, and has another line that he plans to debut soon. The son of former models, Rodriguez has been enamored with fashion since third grade and continues to work at building his brands in the offseason.
“Fashion’s always been in my blood,” he said. “It comes naturally, and I’ve always wanted to have my own thing as far as a label. I’m like, ‘I’m rocking a lot of name-brand clothes, so why not just make my own brand?’ ”
Of course, he still holds another dream, one held by most of his AFL counterparts — making it to the NFL.
There always will be fashion and basketball, the latter of which he plays frequently in the offseason, but he only has so much longer to chase his ultimate goal.
“I still want to get that opportunity if it’s there,” said Rodriguez, 29. “If I just continue to work hard every day, hopefully that day will come.”
Craig Meyer: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter @CraigMeyerPG.