After initial reports of the death of actor Paul Walker and his friend, race-car driver Roger Rodas, emerged earlier this week, Crescenta Valley High assistant football coach Dennis Hughes recalled he had once coached Rodas.
“When this happened, I saw the name Roger Rodas and kept thinking, I know that name. That was one of our guys,” Hughes said this week.
Hughes coached Rodas in the early 1990s on Hoover High's football team, with Rodas playing defensive back. He remembered Rodas as a kind, “silent leader on the team,” who never skipped practice.
Although he could not recall the kind of player Rodas was years ago or how he helped lead to the team's success in past games, Hughes said, “I just remember a kid… that was always a positive force for our football team. Just a good kid, good person — the kind of guy you want on your football team.”
Back then, Hughes said Hoover's football team struggled. By the end of the 1992-93 season when Rodas was a senior, Hughes said the Tornadoes had only one victory, according to his recollection.
“We beat Temple City,” he said. “I think that was the only game we won that year…When the team's struggling, it's easy to miss practice and not be positive about being part of the team. As I recall, I never had anything negative come from Roger. He was always just a positive kid.”
About five years ago, Hughes was shopping at Costco in Burbank when Rodas approached him and said hello.
But even then, Hughes said, “I didn't know he had become so successful.”
Rodas was a husband, father and financial adviser for Bank of America in Glendale.
He owned Always Evolving, a car shop and dealer of sports cars and luxury vehicles, according to its website. He also drove for the shop's race team, and finished in the top 10 at the Sonoma Grand Prix and top five at the Toronto Grand Prix earlier this year.
On Nov. 30, Rodas was behind the wheel of a 2005 Porsche Carrera GT, with Walker in the passenger seat, when he apparently lost control of the car and it hit a light pole and a tree before bursting into flames.
The Los Angeles Times reported that Rodas died from the crash's impact, and Walker died from burns and traumatic injuries.
The pair took the car out for a ride after attending a toy drive run by the Burbank-based organization Reach Out Worldwide, which was founded by Walker. The event collected $150,000 worth of gifts on Saturday for underprivileged children and domestic-violence victims.
Bill Halldin, a spokesman for Bank of America, said Rodas worked for the bank for 20 years, the last 17 as a financial adviser.
“We're deeply saddened by this news, and our thoughts and prayers go out to Roger's family and to the family of Mr. Walker,” Halldin said.
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