Daniel Rodriguez | Purple Hearted Tiger
It’s not too often you have a military hero strap on the shoulder pads and helmets on Saturdays. Most often, young players attend one of the military schools to play football before heading into the armed forces to serve their commitment. Daniel Rodriguez is taking a reverse road on his way to fulfilling a dream.
This week the NCAA and Atlantic Coast Conference (ACC) cleared Daniel to join the Clemson Tiger’s football team as a walk-on player. The 5’8 wide receiver knows he is small by FBS standards, but his focus is on keeping a promise to one of his brothers’-in-arms.
Daniel’s father died four days after Daniel’s high school graduation, sending the young man into a tailspin and looking for a way out. He chose the Army and spent the next four years serving in the Middle East. Tours in Iraq (2007) and Afghanistan (2009) found Daniel in some of the war’s deadliest battles, including the one in Kamdesh in October 2009 where 400 Taliban fighters overwhelmed a US outpost of fewer than 40 soldiers. Eight of Daniel’s fellow soldiers were killed, including his best friend, Pfc. Kevin Thompson.
Prior to his death, Kevin had made Daniel promise that when he returned home, he would pursue his dream of playing college football. Daniel received an honorable discharge in 2010 and was awarded the Bronze Star Medal for Valor and a Purple Heart after Kamdesh.
Daniel began training four-to-six hours each day to get into playing shape for a shot to compete for any one of the hundred FBS schools. After a YouTube video of his workouts went viral, Daniel received inquiries from roughly 50 schools, including Clemson.
“I’m using the hardships, the horrors, the killing, the friends that I’ve lost as fuel to get me to where I want to be. 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,” Daniel shared with ESPN.