Cody Kessler embraces FOJ and the Rodriguez family

    Kessler shares a moment with Joey and his sister before taking the field against Arkansas State.
    Sept. 9, 2015

    By Michael J. Lewis, Friends of Jaclyn Foundation

    It was to be a typical AYSO youth soccer banquet at a restaurant called Souplantation in Culver City, Calif. last November.

    You know the kind; parents and kids show up, have a little dinner, walk off with a little trophy, and go home knowing they had a fun season out on the pitch. There was to be nothing remarkable about it.

    Until 9-year-old Joey Rodriguez walked in with the USC starting quarterback.

    Yep, mixed in among all the pint-sized fullbacks and forwards, the moms and Dads and youth coaches, was a guy who just might win the Heisman Trophy this fall.

    Cody Kessler, No. 6, was asked by his new friend Joey Rodriguez to come to his banquet. And Cody said yes, of course I’ll come. And as you can imagine, quite a commotion was caused among all the other parents and kids.

    “Here’s a kid who looks up to me and who has battled so hard against his brain tumor, and all he wanted was for me to come to his banquet,” Kessler said in a recent phone interview after a Trojans practice. “I’m so fortunate I’ve gotten to know Joey and his family. Plus, the banquet was fun!”

    If it was fun for Cody, imagine how it felt for Joey. Wait, don’t imagine it, here’s Joey talking about it.

    “It was so much fun having him there,” Joey said. “I have liked Cody a lot ever since we met; it feels like he’s my cousin or a relative or something.”

    Joey and his family have very quickly become very important to Kessler, and vice versa. After Joey was diagnosed with a pilocytic astrocytoma in 2012, his mother Liz heard about Friends of Jaclyn from a brochure at the hospital where Joey was being treated.

    Last summer Joey was paired up with USC football, introduced and signed up to the team and it has made a dramatic difference in the little guy’s life.



    “Just walking onto the (USC football) field for the first time, I really had butterflies in my stomach,” Joey said. “But the players were really nice.”

    Cody and Joey text each other all the time, mostly just saying “hi” and “miss you”, Cody said. One of the many things Cody said he appreciates about Joey is how he just wants to be friends, that’s all, and doesn’t care that Cody has the weight of a football program on his shoulders.

    “If I was the backup kicker or the starting quarterback, he would treat me the same way,” Cody said. “He just wants someone to talk to and hang out with. “He’s a great kid, and it’s always meant a lot to me to genuinely get to help people, and make a difference in their lives.”