Bella Rodrigues Wins the Bill Minahan Award

Robinson flag football co-captain recieves award for leadership and player excellence.


Photo Juno Le

Rodrigues listens to Coach Saunders’ comments after a play at the 2021 Preseason Classic.

Chelsea Rodriguez, Sports Editor

Each year, football and flag football coaches nominate athletes from all over Hillsborough County to be considered for the Bill Minahan Award. Nominees go through a selection process where they are then brought to a committee, where the top six most qualified candidates are then chosen. Out of those six, they select a winner and name the runner-ups.

This year on Jan. 16, Robinson’s very own Bella Rodrigues (’23) was recognized as the winner of the 2023 Bill Minahan Award. This award was created in honor of Coach Minahan and is presented to an athlete who most exemplifies outstanding tenacity, leadership, selflessness, passion, dedication, excellence on the field and service to others.

“Bella’s great. . . If you’re looking for anybody that is character driven and loyal and persevering with some of the things that she’s had to go to through this year and I think she was an obvious choice for that award,” Coach Joshua Saunders said.

She is described by her friends and coaches as a strong leader and great role model, to them, there is no one better who could have received this award.

“She’s probably one of the sweetest people you will ever meet and she just balances out everything on the team,” fellow co-captain Manasvi Vijayaraghavan (’24) said. ” Her energy with the team works so well and her leadership qualities just improve our team as a whole. Obviously, we have three other captains but her being one of them just completes us and makes our team really a team.”

Rodrigues first started playing flag football in the seventh grade when her school announced it as a sport that would be joining the school for the first time. She started thinking of this as something new to try and never really took it seriously until high school.

“I just remember thinking ‘Oh that’s so cool I should try it out’ and I did and I really liked it so I kept playing. I started in middle school but I first seriously started playing it in freshman year when I started doing preseason stuff for Robinson flag,” Rodrigues said.

Bella Rodriguez with her award. (Photo Robinson Flag Football Instagram)

Since then, Rodrigues has been a steady member of the team, having been with them for the win of two state championships. She attributes everything that she has accomplished to her coaches, teammates and parents.

“My parents made a lot of sacrifices and worked hard for me to be able to do what I love and play sports in high school, things like that. I just wanna thank my family because they have always been there for me and supported me and watched my games,” Rodriguez said. “I also want to thank my teammates and coaches because I would not be there without them especially Coach Saunders for nominating me and like helping me become a better person and flag player over the last four years.”