June 01, 2007

Undrafted Daniels Has a Shot to Start

by Andrew Zuckerman
ComcastSportsNet.com Contributor

When you hear an NFL player with a nickname like “Tank,” your first thought might be about how big or strong he is.
That’s not the case with the Eagles’ Torrance Daniels though.

Known to everyone as “Tank,” Daniels was no older than five when he received his nickname – from his older brother and his older brother’s friends, who noticed Daniels had an oversized head for someone so young.

“Man, you got a tank head!” one of them blurted out.

The nickname has stuck ever since.

“Many times people think it’s because of something to do with sports, and it’s mainly because my head was huge as a little kid and my brother’s friends were just calling me tank head,” Daniels said, laughing.

You wouldn’t expect someone with such an intimidating nickname to go through his playing career as an underdog. But Daniels has been doing it since college, and it is continuing now during minicamp.

He played football at Division II Harding University, a private school in Arkansas with an enrollment of about 6,000, known more for religion than athletics.
When Daniels, an undrafted rookie, stepped onto the field wearing an Eagles uniform last season, he became the first player from Harding to compete in the NFL.

Daniels started out on the practice squad and slowly worked his way up to special teams. In just six games, he made nine tackles on special teams, including three in the Eagles’ playoff win over the Giants.

“For me, it had a lot to do with my hunger and my excitement about just having
an opportunity,” Daniels said. “So many guys never even get the opportunity, so
when my number is called I just really take advantage of it. The old cliché,
‘Play like it’s your last time’ – I just really felt like you never know when
exactly could be your last time.”
Now, Daniels has an outside shot at seeing time as the Eagles’ strong-side linebacker.Chris Gocong is the starter, for now, and the Eagles drafted Stewart Bradley in the third round, but Daniels could sneak up on the depth chart, especially since neither of the two in front of him is a proven player.

In fact, Daniels is the only one of the three to play in a regular-season game. Gocong spent last season on injured reserve and Bradley is a rookie.

It’s not quite like trying to win a spot from Jeremiah Trotter or Takeo Spikes.

“Of course, anytime you don’t have a Pro Bowl player in front of you, you feel like you have a better opportunity,” Daniels said. “But either way, you have to work so hard. Everyone is so good on this level.”
The focus on the strong-side has been on Gocong and Bradley, leaving Daniels in yet another underdog role.
“Honestly, that doesn’t bother me, not having my name mentioned with who’s going to play SAM,” he said. “I just want to do what I can do. I can play football, and I want to be the best SAM linebacker I can be. If that means people don’t know about me until I break out, that’s fine by me. I don’t have to have my name mentioned. It doesn’t bother me being the dark horse.
“I kind of like being the underdog. I actually prefer that better than being the man, so to speak.”
He isn’t the man yet in Philadelphia, but when he returns home to Arkansas, he is. When Daniels visits Harding, he is treated like a king.
“I go back to my little school and I’m like a rock star,” Daniels said. “It’s still just football, but everyone expects me to have all these exciting and wonderful stories to tell them. It’s kind of fun. It’s exciting to be where I am.”*
E-mail Andrew Zuckerman
Tank seems like a great kid, and I hope the best for him. In theory he does have as good a chance as anyone on this team to win the starting job at SAM linebacker, because of the lack of experience, and there being an open competition. Realistically, I am not so sure he can actually win the job. He would have to really impress the coaches, and both Gocong, and Bradley would have to play very bad. I guess anything is possible in the NFL. My guess is, that he becomes very big for the special teams this season, and plays limited defensive snaps as a backup.

No comments: