Rodriguez had an emotional departure last season sharing his personal story that inspired the iconic mask worn every time he competed.
“Growing up, one of the hardest things to talk about is sexual abuse and that’s something I went through as a young kid by my father of all people,” Rodriguez told TooFab.
Since the mask hid the Ninja Warrior's emotions while completing the course, it symbolized how he hid his pain through his smile when he was younger. Rodriguez hopes that his story can continue to inspire people around the world to speak up if they find themselves in an uncomfortable situation.
“I am so blessed to be on this platform to inspire the youth. A lot of people reached out to me to say that it was inspiring to see someone in my light talk about sexual abuse and it gave them the courage to be able to talk about it too,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve had a few families reach out to tell me that their kids opened up to them after I shared my experience and now their abusers are going to jail for a very long time.”
Host Matt Iseman said it is important to listen to the stories behind the muscle ninjas because, “If it weren’t for the stories, it would just be two hours of people doing amazing things. These are every day people who are overcoming obstacles off the course. You get invested in these stories and want them to do well.”
And after Rodriguez opened up publicly, he decided to take off the mask for good this season.
“I took off the mask as a symbol of embracing who I am because I’m proud of who I’ve become. I wouldn’t take what happened to me back because it made me who I am. I don’t have to hide behind the mask anymore and other people shouldn’t have to hide either. I’m going to have fun this season and hope for the best.”
And one of the fun little twists Rodriguez is looking forward to this season is completing the six fan made obstacles.
“I think it’s a great idea to include the fans and get them involved in other ways than just watching us compete on TV,” Rodriguez told TooFab. “It’s going to be hard because during training you believe in yourself so much since you put in a lot of work and then the actual day comes and there’s a lot of pressure so you have to get your mind in the right place.”