Rodriguez served in Iraq and Afghanistan before walking on for the Tigers. Williams worked a factory job after graduation before deciding to give college football a try and becoming a starter for the Tar Heels.
Wake Forest's Alex Kinal, a 22-year-old redshirt freshman, spent 3 years working a construction job in his native Australia before getting a shot to play for the Demon Deacons. He's now their starting punter.
Rodriguez, 24, spent 18 months in Iraq and a year in Afghanistan, where he was shot in the shoulder and wounded by shrapnel in a battle in October 2009. He earned a Purple Heart and Bronze Star.
"I wasn't, obviously, brought here on my five-star capabilities," Rodriguez said. "But what I've been through as a man and what I can relate and pass to these guys that are younger than I, having my experience and the hardships I've gone through and overcome, it's definitely something that the guys look up to me for."
Clemson coach Dabo Swinney said Rodriguez, who has one catch and has played primarily on special teams for the reigning ACC champions, is "inspirational."
"He's been a sergeant of 20 or 40 men in real life and now he's in the locker room with a bunch of 18- to 22-year-old guys who don't really have life figured out yet," Swinney said.
Kareem Martin, one of Williams' linemates at North Carolina, said watching Williams has taught him a clear lesson: "You don't want to lose this opportunity."
The NCAA has declared receiver Jalen Saunders eligible to play for No. 13 Oklahoma this season, just in time for the Sooners' rivalry game Saturday against No. 15 Texas. Coach Bob Stoops announced that Saunders' eligibility appeal had been approved by the NCAA. He transferred from Fresno State during the offseason and initially was ruled ineligible this season under NCAA transfer guidelines.