FORT WORTH, Texas (FWAA) – Daniel
Rodriguez, a senior wide receiver and special teams player
at Clemson University, is the third recipient of Armed Forces
Merit Award presented by the Football Writers Association of America
(FWAA). Coordinated by the staff at the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces
Bowl, the Armed Forces Merit Award presented by the FWAA was created
in June 2012 "to honor an individual and/or a group with a military
background and/or involvement that has an impact within the realm
of college football."
The 26-year old Rodriguez will be "officially" announced as the
2014 recipient via a teleconference today at an 11 a.m. (CT) by
Brant Ringler, the Executive Director of the Lockheed Martin Armed
Forces Bowl, and Kirk Bohls, the FWAA's President.
Selected by a seven-person committee made up of representatives
from the FWAA and the Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl, Rodriguez
joins Nate Boyer of the University of Texas and Brandon McCoy of
the University of North Texas as recipients of the Armed Forces
Merit Award presented by the FWAA.
Boyer, who is completing his third season as the long snapper
for the Longhorns, was honored in 2012 while McCoy was the 2013
recipient during his fourth and final season as a defensive lineman
for the Mean Green. Rodriguez was an Armed Forces Merit Award semi-finalist
both years while playing at Clemson where he was the 2012 recipient
as the Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage and USAA Athletic Inspiration Awards
while being an ESPY finalist for the Jim Valvano Perseverance Award.
Attending college on the GI Bill, Rodriguez was offered a spot
on the 2012 Clemson team as a walk-on after coach Dabo Swinney saw
a video about the former U.S. Army Sergeant and recipient of the
Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal with Valor Device for his heroism
"On this very special day, Veterans' Day 2014, we are pleased
to join with the Football Writers Association of America to honor
Daniel Rodriguez from Clemson University as the third recipient
of the Armed Forces Merit Award," said Ringler. "We had list of
outstanding nominations for this year's award and it is difficult
to honor only one each year when we have men and programs that are
very deserving of the honor."
Bohls, a columnist for the Austin American-Statesman, echoed
Ringler's sentiments along with adding that the FWAA is "pleased
to team with Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl to recognize Rodriguez'
achievement as a veteran that used his armed forces experiences
to benefit his teammates and coaches at Clemson University. The
FWAA also salutes the other 2014 nominations for their contributions
on-and-off the field of play."
Since starting his Clemson career in 2012, Rodriguez has played
in 35-straight games for the Tigers as the school has recorded a
29-6 record with bowl wins over LSU (Peach) and Ohio State (Orange).
He has caught 10 passes during his career with one touchdown in
a 2013 Tiger win over The Citadel on Military Appreciation Day.
Rodriguez will graduate next month from Clemson with a degree in
parks, recreation and tourism management.
While serving in the Army (2006-2010), Rodriguez spent approximately
18 months in Iraq and one year in Afghanistan. He was involved in
Battle of Kamdesh in Afghanistan (October 3, 2009) when 300 Taliban
insurgents battled with 38 U.S. troops (eight Americans lost their
lives and 22 were injured, including Rodriguez).
Rodriguez' story has been detailed in a book "Rise: An Epic Story
of a Soldier, His Dream, and a Promise Kept," which he co-wrote
with New York Times best-selling author Joe Layden. Sony's TriStar
Productions has also secured the rights to make a movie based on
the book that was released in October 2014.
In Esquire's 80th anniversary issue in October 2013, Brian Mockenhaupt
wrote that "Rodriguez had been a star high school football player,
and after the months of post-Afghanistan, screw-the-world, no-one-knows-what-I've-been-through
darkness, he rekindled his dream to play college ball, worked out
three times a day, and made a stylish video showcasing his manic
drive that blew up on YouTube and drew coaches' attention."
Mockenhaupt quoted Rodriquez in saying that he devoted himself
"to something rather than sulk in my reclusiveness, that's what
helps get me through it. The more I put time into something I was
passionate about, the more I strayed away from my nightmares and
waking up in panics and sweats. I still have my moments, but I found
balance. So many veterans come home and just revolve their lives
around the negativity. Everybody's gone through adversity. Just
because you enlisted doesn't make you special."
The Esquire writer noted that he found a "profound value in his
(Rodriguez) story. He does not view himself as a war veteran or
a college athlete; rather he defines himself by everything in between
then and now - the darkness, the coming to terms, the decision to
transform, and the lonely, relentless work. The first element, the
darkness, is a given for many. The rest is a choice."
Swinney feels Rodriguez "presence has helped the team, and he
never forces his leadership. It has really made the team appreciate
our military, and realize that there are a lot more problems in
the world than our third-down conversion rate."
Sammy Watkins, Clemson's all-time receiving leader and the fourth
overall pick in the 2014 National Football League draft, spoke highly
of Rodriguez when the two were Tiger playing together during the
2012 and 2013 seasons. "I loved having him on our team," said Watkins
about Rodriguez. "He's a motivator, and he brings fire to our team.
Daniel's hyped up every day, hyped up just to be living. We know
what he's been through. I like the way he comes in every day and
goes to work, just like everybody else. He practices hard, he plays
Tajh Boyd, the Tigers' all-time leader for passing yards and
touchdowns before becoming a sixth-round pick in the 2014 NFL Draft,
said that "when you come to Clemson you learn about the military
heritage and history, but when you've got a guy like Daniel on your
team, it changes your whole perspective. It's exciting to have him
on our team - a guy of a similar age and to hear about everything
that went on. That's real life."
ESPN Events, a subsidiary of ESPN, owns and operates a large
portfolio of collegiate sporting events worldwide. The roster includes
two Labor Day weekend college football games; 11 college bowl games
and eight college basketball events, which accounts for approximately
200 hours of programming, reaches almost 64 million viewers and
attracts over a half a million attendees each year. With satellite
offices in Boca Raton, Boise, Birmingham, Dallas-Fort Worth, Albuquerque,
St. Petersburg and Las Vegas, ESPN Events builds relationships with
conferences, schools and local communities, as well as providing
unique experiences for teams and fans. ESPN Events also manages
the Big 12 Corporate Partner Program. Collegiate Football – AdvoCare
V100 Texas Bowl (Houston); AdvoCare Texas Kickoff (Houston); Birmingham
Bowl (Alabama); Bitcoin St. Petersburg Bowl (Florida); Boca Raton
Bowl (Florida); Famous Idaho Potato Bowl (Boise); Gildan New Mexico
Bowl (Albuquerque); Hawai'i Bowl (Honolulu); Zaxby's Heart of Dallas
Bowl (Dallas-Fort Worth); Lockheed Martin Armed Forces Bowl (Dallas-Fort
Worth); MEAC/SWAC Challenge presented by Disney (Orlando, Fla.);
Raycom Media Camellia Bowl (Montgomery, Ala.); Royal Purple Las
Vegas Bowl (Nevada) and The Home Depot College Football Awards (Orlando,
Fla.). Collegiate Basketball - Armed Forces Classic (U.S. Coast
Guard Air Station Borinquen, PR); DIRECTV Wooden Legacy (Orange
County, Calif.); Gildan Charleston Classic (South Carolina); Hawaiian
Airlines Diamond Head Classic (Honolulu); Jimmy V Men's & Women's
Basketball Classics Presented by Corona (New York City & Notre
Dame, Ind.); Orlando Classic (Walt Disney World Resort near Orlando,
Fla.); Puerto Rico Tip-Off (San Juan, PR) and State Farm Champions
Classic (Indianapolis). For more information, visit www.espnevents.com
or follow on Twitter and Facebook.
The Football Writers Association of America consists of the men and women across North America who cover college
football for a living. Founded in 1941, the membership includes
journalists, broadcasters and publicists, as well as key executives
in all the areas that involve the game. The FWAA works to govern
areas that include game day operations, major awards and an All-America
team. Through its website, the FWAA works to improve communication
among all those who work within the game. The FWAA also sponsors
scholarships for aspiring writers and an annual writing contest.
Behind the leadership of President Kirk Bohls of the Austin American-Statesman,
Executive Director Steve Richardson and a board of veteran journalists,
the FWAA continues grow and work to help college football prosper
at all levels. There are now over 1,200 members.