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September 12, 2019

Daniels Embracing The Eskimos Way

Edmonton Eskimos vs Cgy stampeders 09.07.19

Not every kid grows up being the son of a 15-year NFL player.

But it was hard to suggest DaVaris Daniels road to the Edmonton Eskimos was entirely a case of following in his father’s footsteps.

They were large footprints in which to follow.

For starters, Phillip Daniels was a 295-pound defensive end that played most of his career with the Chicago Bears and his boy was nowhere near his size or girth.

Young DaVaris, in fact, was scared spitless when he played his first game as a kid and the coaches chose to use him on defence.

But now, after all these years, he’s a fourth-year CFL pro receiver in his first season with the Eskimos and involved in his first Labor Day doubleheader against the Calgary Stampeders team that brought him to the league.

Despite finishing first and going to the Grey Cup game all three seasons, Daniels decided to join the Eskimos and try to keep his run of first place finishes and trips to the Grey Cup streak alive.

Daniels said while other kids who had dads who played pro sport may have had a tough time growing up and living in the shadow of their dads, he loved it.

In Georgia, my dad grew up in Donaldsonville, a small town of 2,000 and was the first person ever to make it out of there professionally, so he was a big deal.

“It was cool in Seattle and Chicago. It kind of made things a little easier for me. Going to school, everybody wanted to talk about the Seahawks or the Bears and my dad. It was easier for me to make friends.

“I was a shy little kid. I had a lot of people coming to me. It made my life a little easier and helped me open up and talk to people. It was cool to have something to talk about every Monday. Teachers thought it was the coolest thing in the world.

“I went to most of the home games to watch my dad play. We’re a big football family. My mom is really big into it. We were at every game we could possibly be at until he went to play for Washington. Then we just stayed in Chicago because there were better schools and stuff like that. My mom would go back and forth between my high school games and my dad’s Redskins games. So that was tough.”

Because it was obvious size-wise that DaVaris wasn’t going to be the second coming of his dad as a defensive end, there wasn’t that sort of pressure there, either.

“I get to play on the offensive side of the ball and score touchdowns. And my dad gave me a lot of pointers on how to be a professional and stuff like that.

“I started playing when I was nine. In my first year, I remember, I was terrified. I was playing safety, and I was scared to make a hit or take a hit. I knew from Day 1 that I was not supposed to be on this side of the ball.

“I grew out of it eventually, but I always wanted to play offence.”

That happened for him in high school.

“I’ll never forget my first game. I was nervous, man. It was an away game. We were on the bus. I went to the bathroom, probably three times on the bus. I remember shaking.

“I remember the opening kickoff. I took it to the house. My very first pass I caught was for a touchdown. My very first handoff was for a touchdown. I knew then I was ready for this.”

Daniels was heavily recruited and ended up going to Notre Dame around the corner of Lake Michigan in South Bend, Indiana.

“As a kid, I hated Notre Dame just because everybody in Chicago loved them. I came within about 10 minutes of going to Miami but changed my mind. Not only was Notre Dame only two hours down the road, football-wise you knew you knew you were going to get a lot of attention. You were on TV every week. You knew you were going to play before big crowds. It’s a big stage.

“School wise, it was very tough. You were going to the same class as valedictorians. And that cost him his shot at being drafted.

“I got suspended going into my senior year. They said we were getting help from people who weren’t employed by the university for papers and homework and stuff.”

Daniels did get looks from Minnesota and New England in the preseason and then did the circuit having workouts for a bunch of teams. Nobody bit.

“The next year I finally went up to Calgary. I was on their negotiation list. I came in. I learned a lot. I didn’t play like the first nine games and ended up winning Rookie of The Year that year.”

A free agent going into this season, he chose Edmonton.

Why?

“Trevor Harris to be honest,” said the receiver who missed games at the front end of the season but returned to have success.

“Obviously I knew about Edmonton from the rivalry. I talked to the coaches and everybody, and it felt like the right place to be, but the fact that Trevor called did it. He wasn’t even talking to me about football. He was talking to me about life and family and all that other stuff that actually matters. It felt like the right decision.”

Halfway into his first season in Green and Gold, he believes he made the right decision.

“I love it here,” he said. “The Eskimo Way is all about family and doing what it takes for the person next to you, and that’s the way I like it. That’s the way I like it to be. I’m always going to put my teammates before myself. All the guys are close. Everybody mixes well. I couldn’t ask to be in a better position right now.”