DANIELS KEEPS NFL DREAM ALIVE WHILE LOOKING FOR ANOTHER AFL RING
Soul defensive lineman Sean Daniels has made a lot of big plays for the Soul this season. One was a big one that helped keep an undefeated season alive.
On May 13, the Soul were trailing the Baltimore Brigade by one, 56-55 with 40 seconds left in the fourth quarter. The Brigade had the ball at the Soul eight-yard line and looked primed to score again and hand the home team its first loss.
But Baltimore quarterback Shane Carden fumble the snap, Daniels was right there and did his best imitation over another famous last-second defensive score that gave the Soul a 61-56 win and a 5-0 record.
Daniels was wide open on that field, not a soul near him, was there any thought of doing a DeSean
Jackson type antic as you were about to cross the goal line?
“Absolutely not,” Daniels said during an interview on the Footballstories radio show. “The only thoughts in my head were…don’t trip and don’t drop this ball. I didn’t want to have one of those moments where it was, they had the game in their hand and what happened. I just wanted to get two hands on the ball and score.”
Eagles and Giants fans will always remember “The Miracle at the Meadowlands,” the incredible fumble recovery by Eagles cornerback Herman Edwards that he returned 26 yards for a touchdown with seconds left to play.
It was November 19, 1978, in Giants Stadium. Everyone thought the game was over. The Giants had one play to run and seal a 17-12 win. But quarterback Joe Pisarcik fumbled the hand off to fullback Larry Csonka. Edwards picked up the dropped ball and ran 26 yards for the winning score.
Even though it was the first time he had ever scored a touchdown in that fashion, the former Temple standout said he won’t have trouble forgetting the play.
“Easy, because we have another opponent coming in next week.” Daniels said at practice the following Thursday. “They don’t care about that play. As long as they don’t care, I don’t care. As soon as that play happened, it was a good win, but that Sunday it was over with, I’m just watching a lot of film about Cleveland.”
Daniels is playing great defense for the Soul. The unit is a big reason they were 8-0 headed into a crucial matchup against Tampa Bay.
Defensive back James Romain referred to the unit as the “straightjacket” defense.
“We’ve earned it,” Daniels said. “We have some dogs on that defense. That’s my first time hearing ‘StraightJacket’ Defense but I wouldn’t put it past us, we’re a solid core. We’ve got guys like James Romain in the secondary, the guy is a ball hawk. Dwayne Hollis’ nickname is Dwayne “Shutdown” Hollis for a reason. We have have one of the best noses in Justin Lawrence. Our defense just has to find
that moment where we’re all playing together, where our front four is playing with our back half(secondary). As soon as we get that we’re going to be a tough team to stop.”
Like many players just outside the roster of an NFL team, Daniels has bounced around different leagues and training hangouts in an effort to find a spot.
Daniels comes from a family of outstanding athletes so competition and persistence is in his blood.
His brother Michael is a defensive lineman for the Green Bay Packers with six years in the league. His father Mike Sr., played baseball at Rutgers-Camden University.
Sean came to the Soul after a summer of training with this brother and a one-year stint as a defensive lineman with the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats.
“My brother played in the NFL,” Sean said. “I personally have never had the opportunity to strap on an NFL’s team helmet. Praying, God willing, I’ll make it there.”
The Soul and the AFL do get scouted by NFL teams.
Two Soul players on their roster were signed by NFL clubs just before the season started.
Jake Metz (6-foot-6, 265, Shippensburg), who was the AFL Defensive Lineman of the Year in 2016 was signed by the Buffalo Bills and John Kling, a 6-8, 320 pound offensive lineman, signed a free agent contract to play for the Washington Redskins.
So Sean has a realistic reason to hope for an NFL opportunity.
He is still a young player both in age and mileage. Daniels was asked if he was playing for the Soul to show his skills for a tryout at the NFL level. His answer might surprise some people who think all pro athletes only play for money.
“Absolutely,” Daniels said. “I’m doing this because I love to play football. Ultimately the goal is the NFL. Those thing come. My only focus is to win another ring, another championship in a sport that I love. I know a lot of guys back home that tell me ‘man listen, I can’t believe you’re still playing, I wish I had kept up with it.’ That just keeps me grateful for what I’m able to do. Whether it’s the AFL, NFL or the CFL…putting those pads on no matter what the league you’re in is a blessing.”
Sean said he knows the NFL loves players who love the game.
“That also touches on a guy’s character, their personality, who they are as a person” Daniels said. “I know for a while character in the NFL was a big issue. Who are they off the field? Do you love this game? Is this going to be your world? Are you fully dedicated to this? And even when you are out at night, are you still thinking about how I’m representing my team and myself?”
He also knows the NFL looks at players and how they treat people they don’t need.
“That’s just the way I was raised,” Daniels said. “My father raised my brother and my sister to be the same to everybody whether it is the doorman, the trash man or the CEO of a business. You talk to everyone in the same respectful manner.”
You get the feeling that somehow, Daniels will find a way. *