In the wake of losing his father, Daniel, at 18, made the decision to enlist in the Army. His first tour was a 15-month deployment to Baghdad, Iraq. After returning home, Daniel spent an additional year in training before leaving on a 12-month deployment in northern Afghanistan. He had just celebrated his 20th birthday.
On Oct. 3, 2009, Daniel was one of 53 Americans who battled insurgents after nearly 400 Taliban attacked the American Combat Outpost Keating near the town of Kamdesh. For more than 12 hours Daniel continued to fight with shrapnel embedded in his neck and leg and bullet fragments lodged in his shoulder. Eight U.S. soldiers were killed during the skirmish, including Daniel's close friend, Kevin Thompson. Daniel was awarded a Purple Heart and Bronze Star Medal with a "V" Device for Valor.
Upon returning home from his tours of duty overseas, Daniel often found himself feeling unfocused and displaced amidst the normalcy of stateside life. As a result, he turned to drinking to calm his anxieties and soothe his mind. The darkness that accompanied his diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder made Daniel's transition from combat to classroom difficult when he enrolled at Germanna Community College just three months after returning from Afghanistan.
The following autumn, Daniel returned to school with renewed determination. Having survived the wounds of war, both physical and emotional, Daniel found himself at a crossroads. He could continue down a path of excuses, or he could make the decision to turn his life around and focus on the future. In a moment of clarity, Daniel remembered a promise he made to a close friend who had died in combat. In order to get back to football, Daniel formed a plan to remain focused on academics, transfer to a different school and walk on to their football team.
Achieving the goal would not be easy, however. Along with the plan came a regimen that included a strict diet and six hours per day worth of workouts with a trainer. In addition, Daniel self-produced a recruitment video that would ultimately flood the inboxes of hundreds of college football coaches after going viral on Twitter and YouTube.
In the wake of the video, Daniel fielded interest from Clemson University and Head Coach Dabo Swinney reached out. Something in Daniel's gut told him to pick up the phone and call. It was a conversation that would change Daniel's life.
Swinney offered Daniel the opportunity to walk onto the team and take part in the preseason camp. After a mad rush and daunting application process that included getting waivers from the ACC and NCAA in order to make him academically eligible to play, Daniel headed off to Tiger Nation for summer classes...and the rest, as they say, is history.
At Clemson Daniel played in 37 consecutive games primarily on special teams. After graduating as a three time All ACC Academic Daniel kept on pursuing football and was signed as an undrafted free agent to the now LA Rams.