The Clemson Tigers football team is gearing up for a run in the Atlantic Coast Conference this season and they will do so with a very special player on their roster. Wide receiver Daniel Rodriguez has been cleared by the NCAA to join Clemson as a walk-on but he is not your ordinary walk-on player.
Rodriguez is an army vet and Purple Heart recipient. He also was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for Valo during his time in the service while performing tours of duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. He joined the military after his father died just four days after his high school graduation. Rodriguez was overwhelmed and went to an Army recruiter for a way to escape.
Rodriguez was in the battle of Kamdesh where nearly 400 Taliban members ran into only 40 Americans. Rodriguez was injured in the fight getting shrapnel in his leg and neck and a bullet through his shoulder
Eight men were killed in the battle and one was a good friend of Rodriguez’s, Kevin Thompson, who made Rodriguez promise to chase his dreams of playing college football when he returned home.
Rodriguez finally made it back home and taped a workout video. He was living up to his promise he made to Thompson and was pursuing the college football dream. Around 50 teams responded to his video and after going through the paperwork he has now found his way to Clemson.
“It’s been kind of long journey,” he said.
Rodriguez is a political science major and will offer his classmates at Clemson and teammates on the football field a unique perspective on life. If they listen to his story, he will have a lot to teach them.
“I’m using the hardships, the horrors, the killing, the friends that I’ve lost as my fuel to (get) where I want to be,” he said. “So I think if you can turn and manipulate anything negative in your life and use it as something good, that’s what I’ve taken into my life.”
Rodrguez knows that as a walk-on he may not be likely to make a big impact on the stat sheet, but he will do anything he can to help out the team and live out his dream while honoring his late friend.
“I’m not this high-scouted athlete expected to change this program,” Rodriguez said. “I’m just a cog on the wheel that’s going to play my role and better the team from an individual standpoint and give insight from what I’ve been through as a person. If I can help mold some of these guys in the locker room to have the same perspective on life I have, that’s a benefit.”
Rodriguez is a young man that we can all root for. With the athletes making headlines for negative news far too often, it is refreshing to see a feel good story like this to inspire us all and encourage us to go out and chase the dreams of our own. Only the best of wishes should be sent to Rodriguez as he gets his moment to shine.