Tired of all the crap surrounding the game of college football these days? If so, this one will lift your spirits.
As we’ve noted on a couple of occasions around these parts over the past couple of months, 24-year-old Daniel Rodriguez, a veteran of two tours of duty — one in Iraq, the other in Afghanistan — and recipient of both a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star Medal with Valor, was attempting to resurrect his playing career by walking on to the Clemson football team.
In late June, the NCAA, in a rare moment of clarity and humanity, ruled Rodriguez eligible for the 2012 season. Tuesday, Rodriguez’s dream continued as he officially became a member of the Tigers football program as a walk-on.
The school announced the move via a press release.
“I am very happy for Daniel,” said Clemson head coach Dabo Swinney in a statement. “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.”
After starring at Brooke Pointe High School in Virginia, 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 and 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, who will attend Clemson on the G.I. Bill, is expected to compete for playing time as a slot receiver, and will wear No. 83.