Over the last few years, he has also competed on the International level representing Team Canada against some of the best athletes in the world, including Usain Bolt, Justin Gatlin and Warren Weir, at events like the 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2015 Pan American Games.
“I got to compete against Olympic Medalists, those experiences helped me translate back into my NCAA experience,” Rodney said. “I was like ‘I have experience, I ran against some of the best in the world,’ so I knew I was capable of running and being one of the best in the NCAA.
“I think now that I’ve had that international experience, it’ll help me for the next part of my journey, going to the Olympics and those things,” he added.
In indoor and outdoor track and field combined, the decorated sprinter was named a Second-Team All-American on five different occasions, and he earned two NCAA First-Team All-American selections this past indoor and outdoor seasons respectively.
In the NEC alone he’s been named MVP and MOP (sprinter) each of the last three outdoor seasons at the NEC championships in spring.
Along with teammate Mica-Jonathan Petit-Homme, Rodney has made it to four consecutive NCAA National Outdoor Championships, the last of which he came in third in his signature race, the 200-meter dash, on June 10.
“I feel like now that we’re starting to get this experience, it’s going to bring people in and they’ll have more people going to the NCAA Championships in years to come,” he said. “Once we’re able to compete at a high level and compete against these big schools, it’s anybody’s ballgame once you get into that final.”
Although his talent is evident, Rodney could be described as somewhat of a late bloomer as it pertains to his involvement with the sport he currently excels at. Rodney says basketball was his first love, and while attending the Father Henry Carr Catholic Secondary School in Toronto, Rodney shifted his focus from the basketball court to the track.
“My basketball coach was also the track coach. Once basketball season was done I didn’t really want to go home after school, so he told me to come do track,” Rodney said. “I did high jump and it was alright. I saw some guys run and I thought ‘oh I’ve got to be faster than those guys,’ so I ended up running and there I kind of took a liking to it.
“Basketball was my number one sport until the 11th or 12th grade, then I took track serious and from there it took off,” he added.
While LIU Brooklyn’s track programs continue to grow with each passing year, it historically hasn’t been a place that typically breeds All-Americans, but the Toronto native ultimately chose to attend LIU, even after admittedly electing against that notion in the decision process.
Brian Richards, a fellow Canadian and former LIU sprinter, jumper and hurdler, initially put the word in to long-time track and field head coach Simon Hodnett regarding Rodney.
“He told the coach about me. I came on a visit, I thought ‘ah, I don’t really like it,’ but I liked the coach and the coach was really the one who inspired me, we had a great conversation,” Rodney reflected. “I’ve always said if he coached at any other school I’d jump on that opportunity right now. I sat down and said, ‘if I really like the coach that much then it doesn’t matter where they are because I’ll be successful regardless of where I’ll go.’”
Among other things, Rodney described coach Hodnett as a father figure. Athletes tend to overlook the importance of having that type of foundation in order to make progress, but this is something Rodney and coach Hodnett built while at LIU.
“One of the things my coach instilled in me was to keep my head level and that anything is possible,” he said. “That always stayed in my mind like ‘yo just stay humble and good things will come.’ My coach would never let me go walking around like I’m arrogant anyway, he’ll put me in my place before anyone else would.
“It’s like a father basically, and somebody whose there that’s going to look out for you,” he continued. “Right or wrong, he’s still on my side, but he’s going to let me know when I’m wrong. It’s really important and it helped me grow as an individual as well.”
Rodney didn’t only want to excel, but he aimed to help grow the track program, which has made considerable leaps over the last few years with standout athletes like Rodney and the aforementioned Petit-Homme.
“I feel like I’m one of the best, that’s one of the things you want to think when you compete at such a high level,” he said confidently. “It brings attention to the school and to the program. People are on the internet asking ‘what’s LIU?’ Not only does it help the track program, but it helps the school bring in people because they see LIU on TV and want to know more.”
While someone as accomplished as the Canadian track star may find it difficult to put into perspective just what his biggest accomplishments are to this point, Rodney says that getting his master’s degree at LIU is something that stands out.
“I won a medal at the (IAAF) World Championships, that was a really big accomplishment, I’ve had a world leading 20.52 indoors (200 meter), so I don’t know,” he said. “My biggest accomplishment, graduating? I’ll say that. I’m getting my master’s, that’s probably my biggest accomplishment off the track. On the track I don’t know. Just being able to compete at NCAA’s and representing my school, that’s a great accomplishment in itself.”
As for his future, Rodney has the Olympics in his sights in an effort to continue to represent Team Canada globally, whether it’s individually or relay events.
“I want to go out there and compete to make the finals, once you make the finals it’s like I said before, it’s anybody’s ballgame,” he said. “I feel like I have the tools to make the finals and hopefully come out with a medal in my respective individual event, as well as getting a medal in the relay with my country.
“After that, hopefully I can get a sponsorship and go out there and represent them like I represented LIU,” he added. “I just want to be the best that I can be. If I get a gold medal then that’s what it is and if I don’t at least I could say I was my best, I enjoyed what I did and had fun with it.”
Follow Bryan Fonseca on Twitter at @BryanFonsecaNY.