St. Louis Rams Give Minicamp Tryout to Army Veteran Daniel Rodriguez


The St. Louis Rams officially announced the names of the undrafted free agents who will be attending this weekend’s “rookie orientation” on Friday morning. Included with that group was a player who will be attending the de facto minicamp on a tryout basis, Clemson wide receiver Daniel Rodriguez.

At first glance, a walk-on with minimal statistical production like Rodriguez seems out of place among a group of players who were among the most talented players in their respective college programs. That is, of course, until you notice that the 27-year-old Rodriguez joined the Clemson program, walking on while attending the school on the G.I. Bill, following a five-year stint in the Army in which he served roughly 18 months in Iraq and a year in Afghanistan. He was involved in the Battle of Kamdesh in Afghanistan in October of 2009, in which a significantly outmatched American platoon of 38 soldiers battled with 300 members of the Taliban. Eight of those American soldiers died during that battle, and another 22, including Rodriguez, were injured. Rodriguez’s service in this battle earned him a Purple Heart.

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After completing his military stint and spending a year in community college, Rodriguez got into football shape and walked on with the Tigers for the 2012 season. After making the team, Rodriguez went on to contribute both from scrimmage and on special teams–mostly during blowouts–over the next three seasons. He finished his Clemson career with 11 catches for 39 yards and a touchdown, as well as a five-yard carry, a single kick return, and six punt returns for 57 yards.

During his senior season, Rodriguez had one catch for nine yards and a career-long 26-yard punt return. He also earned his first (and only) career start on September 27 against North Carolina as the Tigers started in a four-receiver set.

Rodriguez is scheduled to be the subject of a film, based on his recent book “Rise: A Soldier, A Dream, and a Promise Kept”, which will detail his battle to overcome depression and become a Division I college football player.

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Though Rodriguez faces long odds to earn an invite to training camp considering his advanced age and lack of college experience, it’s great to see the Rams giving him an opportunity and commending him for his service to the country. Rams coach Jeff Fisher has repeatedly shown an appreciation for the military, holding a yearly preseason walk-through at Scott Air Force base near St. Louis, where military members have the opportunity to be involved in the pregame practice alongside the players. After a former Ram, tackle Ty Nsekhe, made controversial comments about the military on Twitter last season, Fisher went out of his way to distance himself from Nsekhe and emphasize his appreciation for the Armed Forces.

Rodriguez adds to an impressive roster of former soldiers turned professional athletes in St. Louis, as former Naval officer Mitch Harris made his major-league debut for the St. Louis Cardinals late last month.

Next: Initial Grades for Rams' 2015 Draft Class