NCAA FB

Clemson's Rodriguez ready for his big moment

Share This Story

   
 

CLEMSON, S.C. (AP)

Clemson walk-on Daniel Rodriguez is ready for the biggest moment of his college career against the team he loved as a child.

The Purple Heart and Bronze Star recipient will lead the Tigers down the hill at Memorial Stadium carrying the American flag before No. 14 Clemson faces Virginia Tech on Saturday.

Rodriguez, 24, is a Virginia native who grew up a Hokies fan and had hopes of playing for Virginia Tech upon his return from serving in Iraq and Afghanistan. Clemson has designated this week's game as Military Appreciation Day.

Clemson (5-1, 2-1 Atlantic Coast Conference) won twice last year against Virginia Tech (4-3, 2-1), including a 38-10 victory in the league title game for the Tigers first championship in 20 years.

Rodriguez is a 5-foot-8 receiver who joined the Tigers this summer after coach Dabo Swinney saw his workout videos on YouTube.com and learned of his military service. Rodriguez has played sparingly on special teams and his one catch came near the end of a 52-27 victory over Ball State last month.

Swinney has said Rodriguez's worth comes in the locker room, a living example of what it means to sacrifice for a higher cause. So Swinney was proud to let Rodriguez lead the team into Death Valley.

That it comes against Virginia Tech makes it even more special for Rodriguez.

''It's kind of crazy how things align, how things fall into place,'' he said. ''It's pretty well known I was a Virginia Tech fan my whole life. Sorry Clemson.''

Rodriguez hopes his pre-game contribution can help the Tigers keep their recent success going against the Hokies.

Clemson had lost five straight in the series since 1998, yet put on two of its most dominating performances to beat Virginia Tech last season. The Tigers held Tech without a touchdown at Lane Stadium in a 23-3 regular-season victory. Then two months later, Clemson shut down the Hokies again in the ACC title game.

Virginia Tech coach Frank Beamer says last year's losses won't factor into this game.

''We don't think in the past very much around here,'' Beamer said. ''We try look at what we've got this week and understand that this is a terrific football team and that we've got a tremendous challenge.''

Especially with the loss of starting center Andrew Miller, who had surgery on his left ankle to repair a fracture and ligament damage. Miller was the team's only veteran for an offensive line that replaced four starters this year.

Clemson hopes the week off since it last played doesn't slow down an offense that's on track to surpass last year's record-setting group in points scored and yards.

The Tigers have averaged better than 41 points and 525 yards halfway through the season. Quarterback Tajh Boyd leads the conference in passing, Andre Ellington leads the conference in rushing and DeAndre Hopkins leads the conference in receiving.

And it's all happened without much help from last year's star in Sammy Watkins. The sophomore has missed three games due to suspension and illness. He's got just 16 catches for 118 yards and no touchdowns.

Clemson offensive coordinator Chad Morris said Watkins had a strong showing during practice is ready to get back into the action. ''He's fully healthy, had a really good practice last week. He's got his legs back under him,'' Morris said. ''Hey, we're ready to go and we're going to need Sammy at the right time.''

Rodriguez is grateful for his time at Clemson.

He was wounded in one of the deadliest battles in Kamdesh, Afghanistan in October 2009. He said nearly 400 Taliban fighters overwhelmed the U.S. outpost of fewer than 40 troops. Eight Americans were killed.

Rodriguez, who was diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, was rattled earlier this month when he passed the third anniversary of the battle. He said while college classes and football have helped, he won't ever fully purge the memories of that awful experience.

Saturday should help, he said.

Beamer remembered Rodriguez as an impressive young man. ''I'm very glad to see him reach his goals,'' he said.

Rodriguez has good-naturedly texted with a high-school friend from Virginia Tech, defensive end J.R. Collins, and can't wait to lead the way for Clemson's traditional football entrance.

''It's awesome,'' Rodriguez said. ''I've come into my own here and been accepted by the team.''

Tagged: Clemson, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Andre Ellington, Sammy Watkins

Related Stories

Member Comments

Please note by clicking on "Post comment" you acknowledge that you have read the Terms of Use and the comment you are posting is in compliance with such terms. Be Polite. Inappropriate posts may be removed by the moderator.

powered by

College Football Pick'em on FOX


NCAA FB Videos

Mark Emmert against unionization Posted: Apr 06, 2014
NCAA president Mark Emmert comments on unionization for student-athletes.

Northwestern athletes win unionization case Posted: Mar 26, 2014
FOX Football debates the implications of student-athletes being able to unionize...

Saban lectures media on Kouandjio's injury Posted: Mar 12, 2014
Nick Saban has some words for the media after the way Cyrus Kouandjio's knee inj...

Get Inside the Locker Room with Scout.com

Fox Sports Store

    itemName itemURL imageSrc price itemDescription
    Nike Florida Gators Gridiron 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - Royal Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Florida_Gators/browse/featuredproduct/759777/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_759000/ff_759777_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Florida Gators Gridiron 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - Royal Blue
    Nike Michigan State Spartans Football 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - White http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Michigan_State_Spartans/browse/featuredproduct/760171/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_760000/ff_760171_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Michigan State Spartans Football 2012 Team Issue T-Shirt - White
    Nike USC Trojans Fight On My School T-Shirt - Cardinal http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_USC_Trojans/browse/featuredproduct/761373/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_761000/ff_761373_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike USC Trojans Fight On My School T-Shirt - Cardinal
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/829709/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_829000/ff_829709_xl.jpg&w=100 64.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Crimso..
    Nike LSU Tigers Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Purple http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_LSU_Tigers/browse/featuredproduct/829740/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_829000/ff_829740_xl.jpg&w=100 49.99 Nike LSU Tigers Elite Force Coaches Sideline Performance Polo - Purple
    Nike Oklahoma Sooners Legacy 91 Dri-FIT Adjustable Coaches Cap - Crimson http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Oklahoma_Sooners/browse/featuredproduct/830935/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_830000/ff_830935_xl.jpg&w=100 21.95 Nike Oklahoma Sooners Legacy 91 Dri-FIT Adjustable Coaches Cap - Crimson
    adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hot Sideline Jacket - Navy Blue http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Notre_Dame_Fighting_Irish/browse/featuredproduct/861243/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_861000/ff_861243_xl.jpg&w=100 69.95 adidas Notre Dame Fighting Irish Hot Sideline Jacket - Navy Blue
    adidas Nebraska Cornhuskers Sideline Hot Quarter Zip Jacket - Scarlet http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Nebraska_Cornhuskers/browse/featuredproduct/861247/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_861000/ff_861247_xl.jpg&w=100 69.95 adidas Nebraska Cornhuskers Sideline Hot Quarter Zip Jacket - Scarlet
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Players Locker Room Snapback Hat - Charcoal/Black http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/1087345/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1087000/ff_1087345_xl.jpg&w=100 29.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Players Locker Room Snapba..
    Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Ash http://shop.foxsports.com/FOX_Alabama_Crimson_Tide/browse/featuredproduct/1093431/source/foxsports_prsp_ca http://images.footballfanatics.com/FFImage/thumb.aspx?i=/productImages/_1093000/ff_1093431_xl.jpg&w=100 24.95 Nike Alabama Crimson Tide 2012 BCS National Champions Locker Room T-Shirt - Ash