Daniel Rodriguez has quite a story, but before we introduce you to the modern day man, let’s take a trip back in time.
Daniel started playing football at the age of six. Though he didn’t know it at the time, it was a passion that would eventually shape his future. With several Division II and III schools recruiting Daniel by the time his junior and senior years of high school rolled around, the future looked bright. Four days after graduation, however, Daniel’s father Ray suffered a massive heart attack and died. Ray, a military veteran, had played a pivotal role in Daniel’s life. He wasn’t just a father; he had been his son’s mentor and coach.
In the wake of losing his father, Daniel made the decision to enlist in the Army. His first tour was a 15-month deployment to Baghdad. After returning home, Daniel spent an additional year in training before leaving for a 12-month tour in northern Afghanistan. He had just celebrated his 20th birthday.
On Oct. 3, 2009, Daniel was one of 53 Americans who battled insurgents after nearly 400 Taliban attacked the American Combat Outpost Keating near the town of Kamdesh. For more than 12 hours Daniel continued to fight with shrapnel embedded in his neck and leg and bullet fragments lodged in his shoulder. Eight U.S. soldiers were killed during the skirmish, including Daniel’s close friend, Kevin Thompson. Daniel was awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal with a “V” Device for Valor.
Upon returning home from his tours of duty overseas, Daniel often found himself feeling unfocused and displaced amidst the normalcy of stateside life. As a result, he turned to drinking to calm his anxieties and soothe his mind. The darkness that accompanied his diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder made Daniel’s transition from combat to classroom difficult when he enrolled at Germanna Community College just three months after returning from Afghanistan. Somehow Daniel dug deep and found a way to power through.
The following autumn, Daniel returned to school with renewed determination. Having survived the wounds of war, both physical and emotional, Daniel found himself at a crossroads. He could continue down a path of drinking and despair, or he could make the decision to turn his life around and focus on the future. In a moment of clarity, Daniel remembered a promise he made to a close friend who had died in combat. In order to get back to football, Daniel formed a plan to remain focused on academics, transfer to a different school and walk on to the team of his dreams.
Achieving the goal would not be easy, however. Along with the plan came a regimen that included a strict diet and six hours per day worth of workouts with a trainer. In addition, Daniel self-produced a recruitment video that would ultimately flood the inboxes of hundreds of college football coaches after going viral on Twitter and YouTube.
In the wake of the video, Daniel fielded interest from the likes of Virginia Tech and NC State, but when Clemson University Head Coach Dabo Swinney reached out, something in Daniel’s gut told him to pick up the phone and call. It was a conversation that would change Daniel’s life.
Swinney offered Daniel the opportunity to walk onto the team and take part in the preseason camp. After a mad rush and daunting application process that included getting waivers from the ACC and NCAA in order to make him academically eligible to play, Daniel headed off to Tiger Nation for summer classes…and the rest, as they say, is history.
At Clemson Daniel played in 37 consecutive games primarily on special teams. After graduating in December of 2014 as a two time All ACC Academic Daniel kept on pursuing football by training at EXOS in Los Angeles California.
He is now currently signed with the St Louis Rams as an undrafted free agent!
His autobiography RISE is available now here