Daniel living out his dream

Coming off his best game of the season, senior nose tackle David Daniel stopped to reflect on his career at Alabama. Though he's been an important contributor for two straight seasons, other athletes are much better known. <br><br>But Daniel doesn't mind one bit. "The way I see it is that everybody has a role to play on the team. I feel like I can make plays, but other guys are the ‘playmakers.' I'm there to give them rest when they get tired."

"Jarrett (Johnson) and Kenny (King) on the inside are better known," Daniel acknowledged. "But I think I have gotten recognition. I play when they need a rest, which allows them to make the plays they make. I think I help both Jarret and Kenny out.

"I don't care about making a name for myself or anything like that. We all play together. As long as we play together, it's all good."

Originally a walk-on, Daniel was awarded a scholarship during the off-season.

Officially Daniel was credited with two tackles Saturday, one for a loss, and a quarterback hurry. But production from defensive tackles is rarely quantified on the stats sheet, and the senior's performance did show up in post-game film review. Defensive Coordinator Carl Torbush explained; "David played well, probably as well as he has played. He had his best game for us. He put some pressure on the quarterback. I thought he flew around well."

"I thought I did OK," Daniel grudgingly acknowledged. "It didn't always go like I wanted it to, but I kept at it. It was a good game for me, probably one of the best games I've had all season."

Saturday was the final home game at Bryant-Denny Stadium for Alabama's seniors, so the Northport native had plenty of motivation to do well. "There were some emotions," Daniel admitted. "Coach Fran told us this would be our last chance to play at Bryant-Denny. He told us to be sure that when we came back in a few years, we'd have positive memories of how we played.

"Those words really stuck with me throughout the whole week. I practiced hard and had good focus all day Friday during meetings. When Saturday came, it was like ‘Hey. This is my last game, so I've got to put up a good performance.' I'll always know I played one of my best games at Bryant-Denny."

Daniel wanted to sign with Alabama out of high school, but academic concerns sent him to East Central Community College in Decatur, Mississippi. After graduating from junior college, he turned down a scholarship to Mississippi State, choosing to walk on at Alabama instead. "We were playing Mississippi State Saturday, which was one of the schools I almost went to," Daniel related. "I was out there trying to show them I could play. Not that they didn't know, because they wanted me to play for them. But I wanted to play well."

Listed at 6-0, 274 pounds, Daniels is a powerfully built athlete, most effective at stopping the run. But on several occasions Saturday he broke through to pressure the Bulldog QB. "I got in on him some," Daniel said. "That's something I've been trying to do all year, but we pressured him Saturday."

Daniel is a native of Northport, and since childhood his dream was to play for the Crimson Tide.

Daniel credits D-Line Coach Stan Eggen with the improvement. "I went out there and I did the moves Coach Eggen showed me," he said. "At the snap, I tried to get push off the ball. When I saw I had my man beat, I just grabbed him and went to the quarterback.

"Usually people think that you work hard on your rush in the spring, and then you come off the ball and execute. But with me it was different. I didn't have enough time to learn how to use my hands in the spring, so I came back in the fall and worked on that. Saturday I was ready. I had been working hard in practice, beating players on the pass rush. So I just went out there in the game and did it. It was time for the show."

Daniel's parents are pastors of the Faith Temple Lighthouse Church in Northport. And Sunday mornings--muscles and all--the Tide defensive lineman is the keyboard/organist during services. "David deserved to have a good game," Torbush said. "He's a terrific kid, and he's worked very hard to get to where he's at. He did some good things during the game, and I'm proud for him. With it being his last home game, there's no question it was special to him."

Nine different Tide linemen saw action Saturday versus MSU. Kenny King, Kindal Moorehead, Jarret Johnson and Nautyn McKay-Loescher started. But along with fellow senior Aries Monroe, Daniel participated in a high number of snaps. "We've got a good rotation going at tackle," Daniel said. "Coach Eggen says he's looking for players that want to play. He develops a rotation and gets us in the game. We all get our snaps.

Besides King and Johnson, Anthony Bryant is also better known than Daniel. But Saturday the big sophomore played only 12 downs, compared to Daniel's 30. "With Anthony Bryant, he's in the rotation getting snaps," Daniel said. "So he'll know later how it feels. Next year will fall more to him. Coach Eggen does a good job rotating the group in and out, so we all have a chance to make plays in the game."

With SEC West division-leading Auburn this weekend, the Tide will need contributions from all its defensive linemen. "This weekend is something," Daniel said. "It's going to be a good game between us. Auburn's a good team, and we're a good team. It'll be a good battle like it's always been. We'll just have to come out and play hard from the beginning and hopefully influence the outcome.

A starter for three games last season, Daniel backs up Kenny King at nose tackle. But Coach Eggen utilizes him in the primary rotation at defensive tackle.

"We're going to battle it out. I can promise that."

Daniel participated in 10 games last season, starting versus Southern Miss, Arkansas and South Carolina. This year he's competed in every game so far, totaling 31 tackles, two quarterback hurries and half a sack.

Daniel was candid in assessing his Tide career. "Things haven't played out exactly like I wanted them to, but I think they're working out for my good. I thought I was going to be a bigger playmaker than I've been. But I see other people on the team making plays, and I've had a part in that. I'm not selfish. As long as everybody does their job, I'm a team player. I believe this has worked out for my good.

"But Alabama is my team, and I'd make the same decision. I wouldn't change a thing. If I took the same road or a different road, then I'd still be playing here."

Many judged him ‘too small' and ‘too slow' to play for Alabama. But Daniel held tight to the vision that has been part of his life since childhood. "I always had a dream of playing here, and I always had that in my head," Daniel related. "Keep your dreams, because I learned that one day you will be able to fulfill them. Coming to Alabama was one of my biggest dreams through high school and elementary. Despite the ups and downs, my career has been a positive in my life. I'll always keep it with me."

"Accomplishing my dream is something I'll carry with me the rest of my life. And later, when I find another dream, I'll know I can do it, because I achieved this one."


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