War is a persistent metaphor associated with football. It's obvious from the terminology (bullet passes, bomb throws) to the game's strategy of penetrating and defending territory. Games are routinely described as battles, players are warriors, and quarterbacks are often described as "field generals."
But with few exceptions, football players in the college or professional ranks rarely ever see or experience real war, where winning or losing is a matter of life or death, and the bombs and bullets are real.
Daniel Rodriguez is one of those rare exceptions.
The 24-year-old Virginia native and U.S. Army war veteran today will trade a battlefield for a football field as he seeks to realize his dream -- playing college football.
The bonafide war hero, who served tours of duty in both Iraq and Afghanistan and received a Bronze Star Medal for Valor along with a Purple Heart, takes the field today as a walk-on wide receiver recruit as Clemson starts fall practice.
Rodriguez has not played football since he was in high school at Brooke Point High in Stafford, Va. He lettered three years (2003-05) in high school as a slot receiver, running back, cornerback, holder, quarterback and kick returner. He will work with the receivers this year at Clemson and have three years of eligibility.
It has been Rodriguez's dream to return to the football field at the college level. Clemson Head Coach Dabo Swinney offered him a spot on the team as a walk-on after seeing an amazing video about Rodriguez on the Internet (see attached video above). The professionally produced video highlights his rigorous training regimen and his quest to play football.
"I am very happy for Daniel," Swinney said. "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."
Rodriguez, who will attend Clemson on the G.I. Bill, was featured on the front page of USA Today a few weeks ago and has been profiled on CNN and Dan Rather Reports (see attached video clip above).
Rodriguez, who watched a close buddy die and who took part in some of the fiercest and bloodiest battles in Afghanistan, came home with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. As he prepares to strap on pads, he is anxious to put that part of his life behind him and start a new chapter, according to this report by the Anderson Independent-Mail's Orange & White Web site.
“When I get in that weight room, put on those cleats, it’s one of those things that clears my mind, puts me at ease,” Rodriguez said. “It’s something I have back. My peace of mind, my good nature, my well-being I abandoned is back.”
And while he is realistic about his chances for stardom at Clemson, he said he does see himself as a role model for other vets, especially those suffering from PTSD, and expects to use his experiences overseas to become a positive presence and locker-room leader.
“It’s not for me to shut out what I’ve been through. It’s what catapults me beyond what I’m doing to succeed,” he said. “I’m using the hardships, the horrors, the killing, friends I’ve lost as my fuel to where I want to be. You can turn and manipulate anything negative in your life and use it, you’re on top.”
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