The Record Breaking Sprinter Hangs Up His Track Cleats to Help Pay the Bills at Home
By Will Cummings
Don’t let Antaries “A. D.” Daniels‘ disappointing yardage totals from last football season fool you—he is still the top RB prospect in the state of Nebraska and among the best backs in the country—he has a box full of letters from almost every major D-1 school in the country to prove it, including the current reigning national champion Florida Gators.
To say that Daniels lack luster season was merely a result of him being a victim of circumstances is an understatement. In fact, I’d venture to say, “In ’08, no high school D-1 caliber back in the country had less in front him on the line of scrimmage, and alongside him in the backfield, and inside their playbook than did Daniels.
During the process of reviewing Northwest’s entire ’08 season’s game films— I literally got a sick feeling deep in the pit of my gut, while watching a young running back with so much talent barely able to even get out of the backfield on the majority of his attempts. Even more disheartening to view was watching Daniels work from a playbook that completely ignored his proven abilities to catch the ball. Unbelievably, Daniels only had four passes thrown to him the entire season.
Daniels’ brilliant sophomore performances–nearly 1,000 yards on the ground and over 200 through the air–and notoriety caused his opponents, in ’08, to stack the box eight and nine deep and to key on his every move. Consequently, Daniels barely gained over 500 yards this past season. Northwest’s small and ineffective offensive line along with a one dimensional offensive attack resulted in three or four of five defenders simultaneously converging on the running back well behind the line of scrimmage—time and time again. Daniels had no holes–he seldom saw daylight! By my estimation, Daniels had well over 200 negative rushing yards on the year. Nevrtheless, Daniels kept getting back up and he never stopped trying to make a difference—he never quit trying to find that precious daylight! And after two seasons of taking this kind of beating—both personally and on the scoreboard—Daniels continues to remain loyal to Northwest.
Inside A. D.
I could never understand why Daniels chose to stay at Northwest until I spoke with him:
“People don’t realize this, but I chose to go to Northwest. I researched Omaha high schools before we [A. D. and his mother] moved up here from Topeka. I saw that Northwest needed players and it would be my best opportunity to play right away,” Daniels said. “I wanted to make a difference too. I could have gone to a school like Central or other schools that have won two or three state titles. But what is the challenge in that.”
Q. OK. I hear you A.D., but don’t you get pressure from your friends and other coaches to leave Northwest because it is hurting your career?
A. D. “Yea! All the time people and coaches have tried to get me to transfer to their school, but for what? Is it going to make me a better football player by going to their school? Are they going to bring more attention to me? I already have college coaches from around the country that know what I can do. They know what I have to work with at Northwest. Besides, the one thing I really don’t like is people that transfer just because they are on a losing team. I chose this school and I am going to finish at Northwest. Loyalty means a lot to me.
Right now it is really exciting to be at Northwest, because for the first time people are into football here. It’s hard for me to believe what is happening. The students are into Coach Benning and want to play for him. They really like him because they can relate to him. When I show them articles and pictures about his [Benning’s] playing days, they are like ‘Wow! that’s him? That’s our coach? I want to play for him.’
I really like my role, every time I see someone I ask them if they are going to go out for football, That’s my responsibility now and it feels good knowing that I might be a part of turning things around at Northwest.
Q. so what do you think Coach Benning can do to help you?
A. D. Man, you should see our playbook. It gives me a headache just looking at it. Let’s just say you are going to see me do a lot of things next year. We are going to show you some things next year. You know this will only be my third year playing running back. I used to be a quarterback and you know I can catch. Our offense will be similar to Burke’s. It’s going to be fun being able to do a lot of different things for the first time.
Q. Interesting. Alright A. D. tell me how you would describe your running style?
A. D. I don’t know how I’d describe it. I can do a lot of things and I’ve learned some stuff from people like Collins Okafor [ a University of Nebraska RB], who showed me how to use a stiff arm. It’s funny because some people thought I looked slower this year, But I was just capable of doing other things to get around them [defenders] besides just blowing by them. I keep picking up things from people like Oak [Okafor]: learning how to be patient and other things to shake a player.
Q. So what school is showing you the most interest right now.
A. D. Kansas! They send me a lot of stuff and when I went down there they really spent a lot of time talking to me. They really made me feel like they wanted me.
Why A. D. Hung Up His Track Cleats
Q. A. D., I heard you quit your track team earlier this week?
A. D. I really feel bad about the whole thing, but I have to help out my mom around the house. bills are stacking up and she is doing too much. I have to get a job.
My mom asked me after football season if I could get a job to help out with the bills, but they [coaches and players] wanted me to come out for basketball. So I asked her if I could play and she said, “alright “ The same thing happened when basketball season was over. I didn’t want to do track because I needed to help out. My mom has diabetes and she already works too much—she needs help with the bills.
The coaches kept wanting me to run track, so I did. Then I got accepted into a scholarship program at school where I had to attend meetings and stuff. It was all too much with everything that was going on at home. I am not a kid anymore—it’s just me and my mom and I am old enough to help out–my mom needs help! So I am going to help her pay some bills.
Daniels Is Impressive Both On And Off the Field
Antaries Daniels genuinely caught me off guard with his self-awareness and self-confidence. Not may young men his age have these traits. But the things that impressed me the most about A. D. were the respect, admiration and love he expressed about his mother and his steadfast commitment to Northwest.
I first took notice of Antaries Daniels during his sophomore season in a game he played against Burke. I was so impressed by Antaries Daniels’ 240 all-purpose yard performance—against the team my son played for–that I made a highlight film out of it—he was and is that good! See the video here
A. D. Is seemingly wise beyond his years.
Redzone Leadership Academy founder Yano Jones says this about A. D.:
I have never worked with a more naturally gifted back: he is off the charts with his explosiveness and quickness. A. D. has the rare combination of being able to run around you or through you or away from you. He is not a D-1 prospect—he is a D-1 player. He has the kind of ability to go to some D-1 school and play as a true freshman. Pound for pound the best natural prospect I’ve been around–A. D. is special.”
If anyone in this state should have a handle on evaluating Nebraska high school D-1 talent–Jones is the man! Niles Paul, Phillip Bates, Tim Biere, Shaun and Sean Prater and Collins Okafor, to name a few, have all spent time with Jones at Redzone.
Jones, who has been working with A. D. for the past year, is a very important part of A. D.’s life. A. D. calls Jones his uncle and he relies heavily on his advice and guidance and for just being there when he needs an adult to confide in. “He is just a great kid who seems to enjoy life,” Jones said. His future is bright and if everything falls into place, he has the kind of talent to make it to the big show [NFL].”
Daniels continues to get bigger, stronger, faster– better. He recently broke the 55 meter dash record at the Nebraska Wesleyan College High School Invitational meet, running it in 6.20, besting the old record by nearly a tenth. Daniels says that last year he was once clocked at 4.37 in the 40 yard dash. “At the Nebraska camp last summer, I was clocked at 4.4.,” Daniels said.
I can’t keep from wondering what kind of performances we’d have seen and the stats he would have if A.D. would have played at one of the Nebraska high school football powerhouses like a Creighton Prep, Millard North, Central etc..? My bet is he would be one of the most heralded high school backs to ever come out of Nebraska–he surely would have had multiple D-1 offers by this time in his high school career. Amazingly, here Antaries Daniels sits: In my strong opinion, one of the best high school RB prospects in the country and he has not received one D-1 offer to date!
You don’t often see his combination of natural instinctive running style, strength and speed–this kid has some serious gears!”
A. D. is the fourth 2010 player to be introduced as a member of myHitnews.com’s Preseason Top Ten Nebraska High School Football Prospects. He joins Andrew Rodriguez, Aurora,: Nick Mizaur, Creighton Prep and Yusef Wade, Lincoln North Star.
Note: The order that these names appear has nothing to do with their eventual ranking in our preseason Top 25 listing, other than the fact that they will be in the Top Ten.
Below, check out the video of some of A. D.’s moves in 2008: