Clemson University football player Rodriquez was recognized with 2012 Orange Bowl FWAA Courage Award during the BCS National Championship game Jan. 7. Rodriquez received a Purple Heart and Bronze Star for his service in Afghanistan. This season Rodriquez played on special teams for the Tigers. (Photo by Ken Kraetzer)

Former soldier honored on football field

U.S. Army veteran and current Clemson football player Daniel Rodriguez was presented the the 2012 Disover Orange Bowl-FWAA Courage Award during the Discover BCS National Championship Game Jan. 7.

Rodriguez, a redshirt freshman receiver from Stafford, Va., now plays for the Tigers after being awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star in Afghanistan. He was chosen from several deserving nominees in a vote by a committee of FWAA members.

Rodriguez, 24, was wounded Oct. 3, 2009, during a battle near Kamdesh, Afghanistan, while serving in the U.S. Army. Combat Outpost Keating, in a mountainous region near the Pakistan border, was ambushed by nearly 300 Taliban insurgents. Eight Americans were killed, while 22 were injured. Rodriguez was shot and wounded in the leg, neck and shoulder.

The American Legion, through its blog site the Burn Pit, raised more than $200,000 in funds and in-kind donations for the soldiers impacted during the attack on COP Keating.

Once recovered and discharged from the military, Rodriguez kept a promise to his friend, Pfc. Kevin Thompson, who was killed during the initial moments of the attack. Rodriguez had told Thompson if he made it home from Afghanistan, he would find a way to play college football.

After enrolling at Germanna Community College, he began training for football. He sent a video of himself catching passes, spliced with video he’d shot during combat, to four-year schools. Clemson coach Dabo Swinney offered Rodriguez a spot on the team.

"I was mesmerized by his video," Swinney told the New York Times. "I’m watching and thinking, ‘Holy cow, he’s amazing.’"

Swinney said Rodriguez is deserving of the Courage Award.

"I am very happy for Daniel," he said. "This is a special award and it further acknowledges his accomplishments."