Daniel Rodriguez

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

20 Comments

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)

UCLA takes advantage of Stanford miscues to lead 10-3 at halftime

PASADENA, CA - SEPTEMBER 10: Head coach Jim Mora of the UCLA Bruins greets his players after a fourth quarter touchdown against the UNLV Rebels at the Rose Bowl on September 10, 2016 in Pasadena, California.  UCLA won 42-21.  (Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

UCLA did their best to battle their demons when facing off against league rival Stanford in the first half on Saturday night at the Rose Bowl.

The Bruins took advantage of two Cardinal turnovers and converted both into scores as they took a 10-3 lead into the locker room.

Quarterback Josh Rosen was 7-of-11 for 77 yards for UCLA and tossed a beautiful strike into the hands of Nate Iese for the game’s only touchdown.

Stanford superstar Christian McCaffrey was mostly held in check by his standards: 13 yards receiving and just 59 yards rushing on 10 carries. The story of the Stanford offense came at quarterback however, as starter Ryan Burns tossed an interception and was replaced on the next series by backup Keller Chryst. Burns later returned to action but it could be a short leash for the signal-caller if things don’t pick up in the second half.

Auburn can’t find the end zone but does pull off the upset over No. 18 LSU

AUBURN, AL - SEPTEMBER 24:  Danny Etling #16 of the LSU Tigers is pressured by Jeff Holland #4 of the Auburn Tigers at Jordan-Hare Stadium on September 24, 2016 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Kevin C. Cox/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Heading into Saturday’s matchup between the Tigers of Auburn and the Tigers of LSU, all anybody in SEC country could talk about was job status of the two head coaches and if — or when — they would be fired.

Call it the Buyout Bowl or the Hot Seat Shootout if you must, but it was Auburn’s Gus Malzahn who emerged victorious in a 18-13 win that was the furthest thing from an offensive showcase but perfectly encapsulated the whacky careers of both coaches in the final seconds.

LSU had a chance to win the game in the final seconds after mounting an impressive drive 60 yard drive into the red zone. After quarterback Danny Etling got off a pass to Malachi Dupre on the 10 yard line on third and 16, the Tigers hustled up to the line but were called for an illegal shift on the ensuing play.

With just one second left on the clock after officials reviewed things, Etling appeared to throw a remarkable game-winning touchdown pass to the back of the end zone. That set off a crazy celebration on the LSU sideline given that they had apparently won the game in the most Les Miles-esque of fashions.

But it was not meant to be.

Officials reviewed the play and said LSU did not in fact get the play off and Auburn escaped with the win thanks to six Daniel Carlson field goals. It was the Tigers first home win in seven tries over a Power Five opponent and snapped a streak of six straight losses at home to SEC teams.

The win certainly buys Malzhan a bit of a cooler hot seat come Sunday morning but does no favors to that of Miles’ seat. The veteran LSU head coach was nearly axed after last season but returned, and then promptly lost the team’s opener to Wisconsin to hear even more calls for his firing.

Those calls will surely intensify again after Saturday’s wild night on the Plains in what could prove to be the beginning of the end for at least one head coach in the SEC West.

Jim Harbaugh thinks Jeremy Clark’s injury is ‘a season-ender’

EAST LANSING, MI - OCTOBER 25: Jarrod Wilson #22 and Jeremy Clark #34 of the Michigan Wolverines watch the action from the sidelines during the fourth quarter of the game at Spartan Stadium on October 25 , 2014 in East Lansing, Michigan. The Spartans defeated the Wolverines 35-11. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Jeremy Clark started the first three games of the 2016 season for Michigan because All-American Jourdan Lewis was battling through some nagging injuries.

Lewis (pictured, No. 34) returned to the lineup Saturday against Penn State, but, unfortunately, it appears his replacement has been lost for a substantial period of time.  In fact, after the beatdown of the Nittany Lions, head coach Jim Harbaugh didn’t shy away from the fact that the senior cornerback is likely gone for the remainder of the year with a torn ACL.

“Sad right now about Jeremy Clark, I don’t think we’re going to be able to dodge a bullet on that one. That’s got everyone in the locker room a little sad right now,” Harbaugh said. “We think it’s a season-ender, we think it’s an ACL. We’ll know more tonight.”

A fifth-year senior, whether Clark would qualify for a sixth season is decidedly unclear.

While Clark stepped aside for the return of Lewis, he would’ve been a consideration for the starter at the corner position opposite the All=Big Ten performer.  At the very least, he likely would’ve served as the nickel corner.

Prior to this season, Clark had made 13 starts for the Wolverines.

WATCH: Woman blocks football with her face at LSU-Auburn game

AUBURN, AL - AUGUST 30:  Nova the eagle buzzes the crowd while flying into Jordan Hare Stadium before the game between the Auburn Tigers and the Arkansas Razorbacks on August 30, 2014 in Auburn, Alabama.  (Photo by Mike Zarrilli/Getty Images)
Getty Images
2 Comments

They say that a picture is worth a 1,000 words.  This vine, then, is worth 1,000 times a picture.  Or a million.

I. Can’t. Stop. Laughing.

Must.  Stop.  Watching.

Can’t.

And, for those like myself concerned about the women’s well-being, she took to Twitter on a couple of occasions to confirm that, yes, she is indeed alright.

One more thing, for those who question my laughing at another’s misfortune: I laugh, and will continue to laugh way too much and way too hard at the video below every single time I see it. The cute little girl doing the face plant? My then-six-year-old daughter.