Decorated War Veteran Daniel Rodriguez Signs With Finland’s Vantaan TAFT

Finland’s Vantaan TAFT, who finished sixth in last year’s Maple League, the top American football league in Finland, have announced the signing of American wide receiver Daniel Rodriguezone of the last, and perhaps most difficult cuts of the St. Louis Rams this fall. However, Rodriguez is not the typical wide receiver or signing.

In fact, his story is anything but typical.

He played his college football at Clemson University (currently the #1 NCAA FBS team in the U.S.) after a vow he made to a friend who died in in the Battle of Kamdesh in Afghanistan.

Rodriguez, an Army Sergeant, was injured in that same battle, one of the bloodiest of the war in Afghanistan and received the Purple Heart and Bronze Star. In that fight, Rodriguez fought for more than 12 hours despite getting bullet fragments lodged in his shoulder and shrapnel in his neck and legs.

Finland - TAFT - Rodrigue-2pic-2He held true to his word and as a walk on at Clemson he fulfilled his dream of playing Division I college football. Although serving mainly on special teams the 5’8″, 180 lb had an impact on the team both on and off the field. A book was written about his life (Rise) and plans are in the works to turn his story into a movie.

But for 2016, he is more concerned about the football season in Finland and helping the new head coach of TAFT, Stephen Stokes, to win a Finnish championship.

“I got along with TAFT head coach Stephen Stokes immediately. American football is always American football everywhere, but I wanted to go somewhere where I can be sure that I have good relationship with coaches and team mates. TAFT felt like a good fit and they made the whole process easy.”

Stephen Stokes is more than pleased with his latest recruit:

“When I am recruiting I look at character above all. Quickly, I found in Daniel a sincere motivation to be a difference maker on and off of the field and those are the kind of guys we need around here. As an organization, we are honored to be a part of his amazing story.”

The Finnish Maple League kicks off in June this year so Rodriguez will have plenty of time to prepare for the season.

Read more about Rodriguez and his signing at Clemson. 

Roger Kelly
Roger Kelly is an editor and a writer for AFI. A former PR Director the B.C. Lions of the Canadian Football League for 7 years, he now lives in Sweden writing about and scouting American Football throughout the world.
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