4 years, 9 months ago
For some time now I have observed High School and College age kids to try to determine the degree to which they appreciate and understand the sacrifice that the men in uniform have made, especially combat veterans. Frankly, it’s a disturbing practice that has led in no small part to a sort of loss of hope in this generation. Many are consumed with video games, comfort, and their own well being.
Occasionally though, something like this comes along. A combat veteran of the Battle of Kamdesh is going to play football for my alma mater, Clemson University.
It’s always been Daniel Rodriguez’s dream to play college football, but that dream had to be deferred when he decided to join the Army after high school.
Six years after the decision, Clemson is finally making Rodriguez’s dream come true.
On Wednesday, the school announced Rodriguez, a 24-year-old, 5-foot-8 receiver, was cleared by the ACC to join the Tigers.
“I am very happy for Daniel,” Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said in a release. “He is getting the opportunity to follow his dream. We are excited to have him join our program. I have no doubt that he will become a great leader for us. His background and story is an inspiration to us all.”
Rodriguez served as an Army infantryman in both Iraq and Afghanistan from 2006-10. In October 2009, Rodriguez was wounded in the battle of Kamdesh after more than 400 Taliban insurgents stormed a small American base. Rodriguez took shrapnel in his legs and neck, and a bullet fragment in his shoulder. He was awarded a Bronze Star of Valor and Purple Heart for his bravery in the fight.
Rodriguez was honorably discharged in 2010, and when he left the Army he did so intending on following through on a promise he made to his good friend Pfc. Kevin Thompson, who was killed in the battle. That promise was to find a way to play college football.
Rodriguez, who hasn’t played football since high school, first shared his story and his workouts on a YouTube video that ultimately went viral. He has since been featured on the cover of USA Today, and has been profiled on CNN and “Dan Rather Reports.”
Rodriguez understands that he’s not going to come into Clemson and be some sort of world-beater on the field, but he’s grateful for the opportunity and hopes his leadership will become an asset. Watch the above video, it will make you want to root for Rodriguez to do well.
“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.”
The video is remarkable, and Rodriguez gets the honor of competing for Clemson … and Clemson gets the honor of having him. It’s a remarkable video that punctuates a remarkable story.