Leading a Different Charge

EDITOR’S NOTE - This is the second of three articles setting the stage for the announcement of the recipient of the inaugural Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America.  Coordinated by the staff at the Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl, the Armed Forces Merit Award was created this past summer “to honor an individual and/or a group within the realm of the sport of football.”  A total of 15 candidates and nominations were considered by the seven-person Armed Forces Merit Award committee made-up of FWAA members and Bell Helicopter Armed Forces Bowl staffers.  The first article ("Those Like Him") was penned by Kirk Bohls, the FWAA’s second vice-president.


Leading a Different Charge

 As the Military Times noted on its web site, Clemson University “has one of the cooler entrances in college football, and Saturday (October 20) it was even more electrifying than usual for the home crowd.”


The “electrifying” moment for the Tiger faithful came before the start of Clemson’s 38-17 win over Virginia Tech October 20 was when walk-on wide receiver Daniel Rodriguez, an Army veteran decorated for his service in Afghanistan, led his teammates onto Frank Howard Field at Memorial Stadium on Military Appreciation Day. 

One of 15 nominations for the inaugural Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America, Rodriquez advanced to the final round of balloting after being voted as one of the top two candidates by the seven-person selection committee.


Through the first seven games for the nationally-ranked Tigers, Rodriguez has caught one pass (four-yard reception September 8 against Ball State) in 25 offensive snaps for Clemson along with competing on the special teams where he has an assisted tackle.

After Tiger Head Coach Dabo Swinney offered him a spot on the team after seeing a video about him on the internet, the 24-year old Rodriguez is attending Clemson on the GI Bill.  A decorated war hero who served approximately 18 months (starting January 26, 2007) in Iraq and one year in Afghanistan, Rodriguez was a member of the United States Army from 2006-2010.

Rodriguez, who achieved the military rank of Sergeant, was involved in Battle of Kamdesh in Afghanistan on October 3, 2009, when 300 Taliban insurgents battled with 38 U.S. troops.  Eight Americans lost their lives and 22 were injured, including Rodriguez.  In one of the most violent battles in the war; Rodriguez earned a Purple Heart and the Bronze Star Medal With Valor Device for his heroism at Kamdesh.

A political science major at Clemson, Rodriguez had not played football since he was in high school at Brooke Point High in Stafford, Va.  The 2011 Southern Pigskin Person-of-the-Year, Rodriguez played football for three seasons (2003-2005) at Brooke Point High School as a slot receiver, running back, cornerback, holder, quarterback and returned kicks.  His team reached the regional playoffs as a senior.

Rodriguez, who has a sister (Veronica) that played volleyball and basketball at Tennessee Temple, also played four seasons of prep basketball as a point guard.  His story has been featured on many national shows and programs, including USA Today, the Washington Post and has been profiled on CNN and Dan Rather Reports.  Here are a few web articles: