It started at Oliver Windell Junior High School in Northridge, Calif. Paul Rodriguez III went to class every day, but it was not until he left the building that he stared his future in the eye.
"I went to a new school and there were a group of skateboarders who would kind of gather after school around the parking lot," Rodriguez, 28, says. "For whatever reason, it grabbed my eye. I would walk home from school and sometimes, I would just stand there a little bit and watch them. I couldn't understand how they could flip the board with their feet. It fascinated me so much."
Rodriguez, better known as P-Rod, could be considered a late bloomer. He went through all of his elementary school years without a drive to skateboard. This could have to do with his family having little extreme sports history.
Rodriguez is the son of comedian Paul Rodriguez, who is known for appearances in such films as D.C. Cab, Born in East L.A., Tortilla Soup, Rat Race and Ali. The elder Rodriguez was ranked No. 74 on Comedy Central's 2004 list, "100 Greatest Stand-Ups of All Time."
Rodriguez befriended the group of skateboarders and they allowed him to try out their boards. Soon after, he knew there was only one thing he desired.
"I told everyone in my family when they asked me what I wanted: Money, so I could go buy a skateboard. I had to try it," Rodriguez says.
Rodriguez found his calling on the board. Although he started skateboarding fairly late, he quickly became obsessed with the sport.
"I'm the type of person, when I was a little kid, I couldn't sit down in front of a baseball game and watch," Rodriguez says. "I had to go play baseball. I couldn't watch basketball. I had to play it. I don't like being a spectator. If I'm interested in something, I have to just do it."
Rodriguez has been doing it for more than a decade now. He burst onto the scene in the early 2000s, receiving Transworld SKATEboarding's 2002 Rookie of the Year Award. In 2004, he won his first X Games gold medal. Rodriguez now as eight total X Games medals, including four gold.
Despite all of his competitive success, Rodriguez's most memorable career moments came outside of a skate park. Looking back on his career, the street skater points to two main career turning points: Signing with Nike and being named to Transworld SKATEboarding's list, "The 30 Most Influential Skaters of All Time."
In terms of Nike, Rodriguez had the opportunity to launch his own shoe line. As someone who says his first pair of shoes were Air Jordans, this was a big deal.
"That really took my career and took me on a different path," he says.
Rodriguez's first pair of signature shoes came out in 2005. The brand is still pumping out new styles to this day.
Transworld SKATEboarding's list came out in December 2011, and Rodriguez was not expecting the call from the magazine. In a sport known for big air, flips, handstands and other stunts, Rodriguez got emotional.
"I didn't know until it was about to come out," he says. "They wanted to do a quick interview with me. They were making the list and I was on the list. When I got the magazine, I'm not going to lie, I wanted to cry."
At the time of the magazine's publication, Rodriguez was a few days short of his 27th birthday. Looking through the ages of the others members of the list, Rodriguez was in awe of his company. He was in the conversation with the skaters he grew up admiring.
"The proud part of it was that I was the only guy on that list still in my 20s and when I started skateboarding, everybody else on that list was already an established pro," he says. "It's an honor to have made that list in such a short time. To me, that just validates it all.
"That meant more to me than winning any medals or anything else."
Although he is already viewed as one of the top street skaters in the history of his sport, Rodriguez still has a long way to go. Like two of his idols, Eric Koston and Andrew Reynolds, Rodriguez puts longevity at the forefront of his career mindset. He says he feel great and does not see the retirement crowd hovering over him.
"I'm thankful," Rodriguez says, "In a sport like skateboarding you never know what's going to happen."
"This has been my dream since I was a little kid, so I'm not looking to stop any time soon."
While some skaters can compete deep into their 30s, 28 is far from youth in street skating. Obviously Rodriguez has also had more success than the average street skater, which makes his continued presence at the top of the sport unsurprising.
The legacy he has already created is abnormal. Rodriguez, speaking from his humble persona, does not like examining his own mark on skateboarding.
"It's always hard to judge your own legacy because it's not really for me to say," he says. "I recognize I've accomplished a fair bit in the world of skateboarding that not everybody has, so I'm proud of what I've been able to do and accomplished, but you're always your own worst critic. I'm always taking myself apart and seeing where and how I can do better. Trying to plan it out and build it off of what you've already done."
As for his next event, Rodriguez will participate in the Dew Tour Toyota City Championships this weekend in San Francisco. A national audience will have the chance to see Rodriguez and other skaters, as the competition airs from 4 p.m.-6 p.m. ET on Saturday and Sunday, while also streaming live at dewtour.com.
The Dew Tour, which has three U.S. stops includes more scrutiny than most events, but Rodriguez will treat it like any other competition.
"I'm just trying to better my craft right now," he says. "I'm always focused on accomplishing new things in my craft. Improving my craft, learning new tricks, innovating beyond the skateboard. Everything else falls in place once you focus on all that."
The competitiveness and focus is not uncanny coming from the son of a comedian. It is easy to forget how stand-up comedy is far from a nonchalant occupation. As a child, Rodriguez had a chance to watch his father and his contemporaries toil away at writing comedy.
"What I learned about comedy growing up is it's really difficult," Rodriguez says. "When you go up on stage, you have to focus. For the audience, you're having a good time listening to the jokes. That's true. But these guys act this material out in their heads so far in advance. They've been working on it sometimes years in advance trying to hone in on it."
One thing the elder Rodriguez cannot make fun of is skateboarding. He does not have the skills to poke fun at the sport. According to Rodriguez, his father used to try his feet at boarding, but danger shut that down.
"He stood on [a skateboard] when I was younger," the son says. "It was the most terrifying thing ever, so I don't let him do it."
When Rodriguez was a teenager, skateboarding was still a young sport, and it still has a very limited history. At the street level, Rodriguez was influence by such skaters as Koston and Reynolds. As time has passed, Rodriguez has taken their legacies and extended them.
As skateboarding continues to grow as a sport, with Rodriguez clearly at the street forefront, he refuses to take full credit.
"I'd say I'm part of a generations that's helped the sport, a group of individuals who've done that," he says. "Right now, we'll see what that's going to mean in the future."
As for his own future, Rodriguez is still adding on to his story and leaving his mark on the sport. This weekend's Dew Tour event will be another step in his decorated skating career.
Outside of the sport, Rodriguez is in the midst of a film project with director Ty Evans along with some advertising work. He is hoping to debut his newest shoe design this summer and a new board brand in the near future.
Rodriguez has a daughter, Heaven Love, and still lives in Northridge.
-- Follow Jeffrey Eisenband on Twitter @JeffEisenband.
Long Snapper's Trick Shots