War hero, author, and now football player Daniel Rodriguez making waves

Screenshot from FOX video below.

By Brett Gillin

Daniel Rodriguez’s journey to becoming a Division I college football player has been a unique one. Rather than toiling through the years of high school football and hoping to make a team upon graduation, Rodriguez decided he had a different calling. Rodriguez made the noble decision to serve his country after high school. For six years, deployed in Iraq and Afghanistan, Rodriguez did more than most people ever dream about. Now, he’s fulfilling a dream of his own, and a promise he made to a friend back in 2009. Rodriguez is now officially a starter on the Clemson Tigers, but as you’ll read, that’s one of the least interesting lines on his impressive resume.

Rodriguez is a 26 year old senior at Clemson, who is listed as a Wide Receiver. Rodriguez spends the bulk of his time on special teams, but his contributions to the team are immeasurable. You see Rodriguez is an inspiration to everyone he meets, something that any football team values in a player. The fact that he’s one of the hardest working players on the team certainly doesn’t hurt, but it’s not surprising to anyone that knows him.

As pointed out in this article in Time magazine, before Rodriguez strapped on his football helmet and took the field with his team for the first time back in 2012, he was wearing an altogether different uniform: that of the US Military.

As Rodriguez points out in his Time article, he had the “misfortune of being involved in the infamous Battle of Kamdesh, one of the bloodiest encounters in the Afghanistan conflict.” During that battle, Rodriguez nearly died, lost a close friend, and made a promise that he’s officially kept.

That day, 300 insurgents attacked two separate outposts in Afghanistan. Only 72 soldiers were left to repel the 300 soldiers for an entire 12 hour firefight. A total of eight U.S. soldiers lost their lives that night, including Rodriguez’s close friend. For his courage, Rodriguez earned the Purple Heart and Bronze Star with Valor, and a brand new outlook on life.

“I lost friends that day, and no amount of hardware can ever change that fact or make the memory any less painful. But I guess this is one of the ways I deal with it: by fulfilling a promise I mad to a friend who died that day, on October 3, 2009,” Rodriguez told reporters. That promise was to play college football once he completed his tour.

While he’s far from an NFL-level prospect thanks to his size (5 foot 8, 175 pounds) and has yet to catch a pass this year, Rodriguez has more than made his impact felt during his time with Clemson. Last year, on Military Appreciation day, Rodriguez carried the American flag onto the field and led a crowd of 80,000 fans to a rousing “U-S-A” chant. He also scored his first touchdown that day, on a fly sweep. Then, on September 27, 2014 Rodriguez made his first career start.

To date, Rodriguez has 10 receptions for 30 yards and a touchdown, along with a five yard carry and five punt returns for 31 yards.


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