GRIDIRON DREAM SITE IS CLEMSON
By ADAM HIMMELSBACH
When Sgt. Daniel Rodriguez was serving in Afghanistan, he promised Pfc. Kevin Thomson that he would chase his dream of becoming a college football player.
Thomson was killed in battle on Oct. 3, 2009, and Rodriguez, a 2006 Brooke Point High School graduate, has been determined to keep his word ever since.
This past weekend, he moved one step closer to his goal of playing for a major Division I football team by committing to Clemson.
“It’s an awesome feeling,” Rodriguez said Monday. “It started as just a promise to my friend, and it’s now a self-commitment that I made. It’s awesome to know it’s finally here.”
Rodriguez, 24, played football for Brooke Point and enrolled in the Army after graduating.
He served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan, where he was involved in the Battle of Kamdesh, one of the bloodiest of the war. Eight U.S. soldiers were killed and 22 were wounded, and Rodriguez received a Bronze Star Medal for valor.
He returned to Stafford County in 2010 and has been working out and taking classes at Germanna Community College.
Rodriguez recently created a video that detailed his intense workout regimen as well as his story, and it quickly circulated through college football programs across the nation.
Rodriguez was contacted by numerous teams that wanted to add him to their roster, one of which was Clemson.
He visited the campus in South Carolina last week. He met with head coach Dabo Swinney and several players, attended team meetings and watched spring practice from the sidelines.
“I absolutely fell in love with the campus and also the people, just how friendly everyone was,” Rodriguez said. “I bonded with the team and the coaches.”
Rodriguez will be a non-scholarship walk-on, attending college on the G.I. Bill. Rodriguez said there are a few issues he must clear with the NCAA before he will be able to take the field for the Tigers.
He said he would not be eligible to play next season based on his academic record from his senior year at Brooke Point. To be eligible next season, he must get his associate degree or receive a waiver from the NCAA.
Rodriguez said Clemson’s compliance office has applied for a waiver, citing his 3.5 grade-point average at Germanna and his military record.
Rodriguez said he might continue to take classes at Germanna through the summer, but he plans to enroll at Clemson in the fall regardless.
NCAA rules prohibit Clemson officials from commenting on Rodriguez’s status because he is still considered a prospect.
“The worst-case scenario is I sit out next season and am then eligible for the following season,” Rodriguez said.
Rodriguez currently has three years of athletic eligibility remaining. He is confident the NCAA will consider his extenuating circumstance as well as his strong recent academic record and rule in his favor.
For now, he will continue training and preparing for a college football career, whenever it may begin.
He continues to work out at the Fredericksburg Field House and said he will participate in some off-season training with Brooke Point’s football team.
He said he is not chasing his dream just to watch happily from the sidelines.
“I’ve never been complacent and I never thought just having a jersey on my back would be enough,” Rodriguez said. “I want to be an important part of the team, and I’m going to do whatever I can to get on the field.”
Adam Himmelsbach: 540/374-5442