The way Monte Vista Christian Athletic Director Matt Coleman sees it, once the interviews began, there were no other options.
“It was clear,” the A.D. said. “He was the guy.”
In a stunning move Tuesday, Monte Vista Christian announced Jubenal Rodriguez was leaving his post at Gilroy High to take over the football program at the private school in the outskirts of Watsonville.
Rodriguez, 28, is fresh off leading Gilroy to a perfect 13-0 season, as well as league and Central Coast Section championships last fall.
Now he’ll try to do the same with an M.V.C. program which last season missed the playoffs for the first time since 2013, and parted ways with its head coach after one year.
“It’s a new beginning for me, a new beginning for Monte Vista Christian and a new beginning for Gilroy,” Rodriguez said. “I’m happy with it. I'm ready to roll the sleeves up and start working.”
Rodriguez takes over for Bruce Dini, who was let go by M.V.C. just two weeks after a 4-6 finish in his first and only season.
Dini was hired 50 days before the start of the 2017 season. Rodriguez, according to Coleman, is expected to be on campus plenty in the coming weeks, giving him more than five months to set the foundation of his program.
He'll also be hired as a teacher at the school, which has an enrollment of approximately 800 students.
“The advantage he and our kids are going to have, it’ll be night and day,” Coleman said. “He’ll be a presence on campus right away, and that’s big.”
It will be Rodriguez’s second head coaching job. He took over the position at Gilroy in 2015 after spending a trio of seasons as a defensive assistant at his alma mater, Sobrato High.
Gilroy improved in each season under Rodriguez, going from 3-7 in his first year, to 8-4 in his second and running the gauntlet in his third to win the program’s first-ever CCS title.
Last season he was named the San Francisco 49ers’ Coach of the Week after Gilroy’s victory over Live Oak High, and was also a nominee for the Don Shula NFL High School Coach of the Year Award.
“We were looking for that physical evidence of success in our candidates,” said Coleman, who explained the there were four finalist for the position. “There was no doubt that he had changed the culture of the program in his time at Gilroy.”
And Rodriguez plans to do the same at M.V.C., which before last season had won eight games or more, and finished in the top three in the Monterey Bay League Gabilan division three years running under former head coach David Reese.
Rodriguez, a defensive mastermind, said he preaches three things: commitment, consistency and sacrifice.
Changing the culture and setting the expectations will be the first step of the metamorphosis.
“Not a lot of people know what it takes to take a team to the next level,” Rodriguez said. “It’s going to take a lot of time, effort and commitment. A lot of sacrifice from everyone.”
M.V.C. will lose 21 players from a roster of 40 come graduation, including quarterback Sean White and running back Cody Paresa. The former threw for 2,390 yards and 21 touchdowns in the fall, while the latter compiled a team-high 1,309 all-purpose yards as well as 10 touchdowns.
The Mustangs will, however, return star junior receivers Nick Bautista and Daniel Brierley, and half of their offensive line.
Rodriguez ran a wing-t offense at Gilroy, but said that could change at M.V.C., which last season ran the spread under Dini.
He said he met four players during the interview process, and is eager to start molding them in his system.
“You can just tell that they were hungry,” said Rodriguez, who was set to meet the team on Wednesday afternoon. "I've always thought there was a lot of potential at M.V.C... It'll be fun."
Coleman said the process of hiring a coach was much smoother this time around.
When Reese stepped down from his position as A.D. and football coach just nine months ago, the school was left scrambling a bit to fill both roles.
Coleman was hired first, but was not in town to conduct interviews for the coaching vacancy. He had to phone-in via video chat from Ohio, where he was finishing up his previous job as the A.D. at Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy.
Able to be there from day one, Coleman was a part of the extensive nationwide search, which culminated last week with a Q&A panel featuring student-athletes, administrators and faculty.
Coleman said Rodriguez's vision for the program shone through in every interaction.
“It just felt right,” Coleman said. “As soon as we walked on the campus, he felt like the right choice.”
A standout linebacker who was part of Sobrato’s first graduating class in 2007, Rodriguez played at Gavilan College before transferring out to Lewis & Clark College in Portland.
Upon returning home, Rodriguez, then 22, did not immediately dip his feet into coaching. But when his former coach at Sobrato asked him to join the staff as an assistant in 2011, he said “why not?”
At the time, his only responsibility was mopping floors at Staples at 5 a.m.
“It was between mopping floors or coaching football and being a teacher,” Rodriguez quipped. “It just took off from there.”