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War vet, Purple Heart honoree close to walking on at Clemson

Daniel Rodriguez

Appropriately enough, given the holiday we are in the midst of celebrating, there is a pretty damn cool story developing at Clemson.

After starring at Brooke Pointe High School in Virginia, Daniel Rodriguez appeared set to embark on a playing career at the collegiate level. Tragically, his father died of a heart attack four days after Rodriguez graduated, pushing the player away from realizing his dream of playing college football and into a career in the military.

Rodriguez joined the Army in 2007 and, one month after completing basic training, began serving a 15-month tour of duty in Iraq as part of an infantry unit. He served a second tour in Afghanistan, losing eight friends in a fierce battle with the Taliban in October of 2009. For his heroics during that battle, he was awarded both the Bronze Star and Purple Heart.

Honorably discharged roughly six months later, Rodriguez began attending community college and resumed his effort to play football at the collegiate level. Rodriguez, the Greenville News writes in a very nice feature on the veteran, “began training tirelessly and produced a video that served as his recruiting film.”

While Rodriguez had hoped to remain in his home state and play for Virginia or Virginia Tech, the tape caught the attention of Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney. After making two visits to the school, Rodriguez was offered the opportunity to become a walk-on for the Tigers by Swinney, a walk-on himself at Alabama in 1989 before earning a scholarship.

Rodriguez, a 5-8, 175-pounder who hopes to fill a role at slot receiver, is still awaiting clearance from the NCAA that would allow him to be eligible to play in 2012. When the NCAA does ultimately come to its senses and clears Rodriguez, the veteran doesn’t want a “play-for-pity arrangement,” the News writes.

“A handout is a shortcut to failure,” he said. “I don’t feel that I deserve anything. I don’t feel like I’m entitled to anything.

“I know there is a spotlight on my situation, but at the same time, I don’t feel like it’s been handed to me. I feel like I busted my butt in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I feel like I’ve busted it in the gym and in school to be given this chance.”

How can you not root for a young man like that, with that attitude and what he’s given to this country?

Fittingly, the paper also deftly fits in a discussion with Rodriguez regarding Arlington National Cemetery and how he wants to live his life honoring those killed in battle.

“I have friends buried there. I say my piece, and I always break down,” said Rodriguez…

“I definitely want to live my life better for the ones that have given everything,” he said. “A lot of people take stuff for granted and complain about things, when I’ve got mothers on my phone that are never going to see their sons again.

“I will never be over the losses 100 percent, but it’s what builds my character. It’s the foundation inside of me. You can have a foundation, or you can have an anchor. Both are solid and strong, but one is going to drag you down. The other is going to build you up.”

Damn. Again, how can you not root for Rodriguez?

Additionally, and for those who are interested, below is the video that caught Swinney’s attention. I’d strongly urge you to take seven minutes and some change out of your day to view it.

It would be well worth your time.

(Photo credit: Daniel Rodriguez)

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20 Responses to “War vet, Purple Heart honoree close to walking on at Clemson”
  1. sirgregmac says: May 28, 2012 11:24 AM

    Great story especially on Memorial Day. However the headline says Purple Heart while the story says Purple Star which doesn’t exist. Bronze Star and Purple Heart would be correct.

  2. tilllman40 says: May 28, 2012 11:41 AM

    Best of luck , a kid like this deserves a shot not jokes such as fairley etc, godbless

  3. indywvu says: May 28, 2012 11:41 AM

    Great story. I hope the young man makes it and realizes his dream. He states he doesn’t “deserve” anything, but I disagree. He deserves his shot to live his dream. He has done so much for so many of us that he will never meet. Props to Coach Swinney and Clemson for giving this young HERO a chance to make this happen.

  4. John Taylor says: May 28, 2012 11:56 AM

    @sirgregmac: Thanks for the heads up. It’s appreciated.

  5. billmead1976 says: May 28, 2012 12:03 PM

    Dude. You don’t win a Purple Heart. Great Memorial Day story, but you miss terribly with the Headline.

  6. planck16 says: May 28, 2012 12:35 PM

    I wish all recruiting videos were like this instead of ghetto rap music booming with arrows and circles pointing out the player.

    Knowing Dabo, I would not be surprised if this kids touches the ball first play of the season.

    I am calling it, this kid gets to return the kickoff against Auburn if/when he becomes eligible.

  7. thegamecocker says: May 28, 2012 7:58 PM

    To Mr. Rodriguez:

    Thank you for serving our country and making us all proud. I wish you good health and long life and if Clemson is the school that accepts you, I wish you the best of luck. YOU HAVE EARNED THE RESPECT OF EVERYONE WHO WRITES ON THIS BOARD! I hope you have happiness and success in your college career.

  8. florida727 says: May 29, 2012 12:10 AM

    What idiot thumbs-downs “gamecocker”‘s post?

    Mr. Rodriguez, best of luck. Hope you make the best of your opportunity. I’m sure whatever success you have, will be hard earned and well-deserved. You should be proud of your accomplishments in the military. You have my most sincere admiration.

  9. seanmmartin says: May 29, 2012 12:18 AM

    This is a great story.

  10. Slim Charles says: May 29, 2012 1:58 AM

    I wish all recruiting videos were like this instead of ghetto rap music booming with arrows and circles pointing out the player.


    Why would you use this inspiring story to denigrate other people? A lot of people in our armed forces listen to “ghetto” rap music. And the arrows you’re talking about help to point someone out among a crowd.

    Everyone takes a different path to get where they want to go. Rodriguez doesn’t sound bitter about the hard road he had to take, so not sure why you are.

  11. taino1751 says: May 29, 2012 6:48 AM


  12. bradentonbuc says: May 29, 2012 7:00 AM

    To taino1751 :

    As an American, I think this is not the place.

  13. florida727 says: May 29, 2012 7:43 AM

    I agree with “bradentonbuc”, taino. Take your politicizing to another blog site. This is about Daniel Rodriguez, and ONLY Daniel Rodriguez, and NOT an issue about illegals or immigrants. But since you asked… there’s a process for citizenship that’s afforded to everyone… and that too is what our military fights for. Special interests are killing the country in case you hadn’t noticed. Don’t like the rules? Get out. No one’s stopping you.

  14. thegamecocker says: May 29, 2012 7:49 AM


    Thanks for your support. It must be bias against anything I write, even if it is meant for genuine good of anyone living in our GREAT COUNTRY!

  15. planck16 says: May 29, 2012 11:39 AM

    @ Slim Charles

    You miss the point entirely! This was not a knock on anyone, but this is clearly a “recruiting” video that is well done and speaks to the character of an individual and tells a fascinating story.

    Most recruiting videos are terrible and have ghetto rap or heavy metal with cussing in it to hype them up.

    I am a Clemson grad and part of a military family, so BITTER is something I am not on this story.

    I am just saying, if more recruiting videos focused on the character of the kid then we would see a lot less kids failing out of school or getting kicked out of school because you would be recruiting on more than just pure athletic talent.

  16. planck16 says: May 29, 2012 11:45 AM

    @ Slim Charles,

    Oh, and by the way, the fact that your Screen Name “Slim Charles” is of a drug dealer off The Wire speaks volumes to your statement.

  17. jonkybon says: May 29, 2012 4:07 PM

    Its young men like this one that make our Country the greatest on Earth. Kudos to Dabo for recognizing character means more then 40 times or bench presses. This young man has something you can’t teach…HEART and Courage. Daniel, I hope you find much success in the classroom, on the field and what ever you choose to do with your life. YOU’VE EARNED IT!

  18. scoothoo says: May 29, 2012 7:43 PM

    I’m a virginia fan and wish we offered him a spot. I will pull for this guy. Thank you sir for your service!

  19. waynefontes says: May 30, 2012 2:26 PM

    Best of luck to this kid no matter where he goes to play football.

    Thank your for your service, Mr. Rodriguez

  20. jlc676 says: Jun 10, 2012 5:28 PM

    I just want to wish good luck to a young man who is truly an American hero. Thank you for your service to our country. I pray that the burdens you bear will ease with time. God bless.

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