Not going anywhere

Recruiting season is in full swing, but the Tide may have gotten it's biggest commitment for 2003 this week, as last year's leading tackler, Brooks Daniels, announced his decision to return for his senior season at Alabama.

"I sat down with my parents and I talked it over," Daniels said. "We decided that it was good for me to come back for another year. I talked to my Mom and she told me ‘You don't have to rush into anything.' So I'm returning to play for Alabama."

A force from his Rover position all last year, Brooks Daniels finished 2002 with 107 tackles, the second straight season he's topped the century mark in stops. He also contributed three sacks and four quarterback hurries. But with the NFL and its big-money contracts on the horizon, success for today's college athletes often spells an early entry into the draft.

Since entering the starting lineup as a sophomore, Daniels has developed into a consistent playmaker from his Rover position.

For months now Daniels has heard from various sources that his pro future was now. Every year economic reality prompts star juniors to leave school early to get to "The League." Last January Saleem Rasheed took the jump, and Daniels has always dreamed of playing in the NFL.

"It was tempting," he acknowledged to in a conversation yesterday at the Alabama Football Complex. "I was thinking about it."

Bama fans needn't worry. Daniels understands and respects NCAA rules, and he made certain he stayed far away from any agent contact. But since the middle of last season various people have been passing him the word that financial fortune lay just around the corner.

"I had a lot of guys talking to me," Daniels said. "They were telling me that I had a pretty good chance. They were telling me that I would go in the second (round)--early second or late second."

Middle-round contracts are nothing to sneeze at, especially in the NFL. But with first-round bonus money, athletes can end up set for life. And noting the examples of Chris Samuels and Shaun Alexander, both of whom returned for the senior season and ended up getting drafted in the first round, Daniels hopes to raise his status even higher during his final year of college.

"I finally decided that I can stay for another year and hopefully push my stock up," he explained. "I considered that factor, too."

A two-year starter at Rover for the Tide, Daniels has always been undersized for linebacker. But those NFL whispers also involved a change of position. "I'm hearing safety," he acknowledged. "If I came out they were saying that's what I would be playing."

Though admittedly a tad undersized for linebacker, Daniels is one of the most physical competitors on the Tide defense.

If safety represents his professional future, might he want to switch positions this year? "So long as I'm starting at linebacker, I'm going to stay where I'm at," Daniels replied. "But it might be interesting to try a bit of safety at spring practice."

Like many other talented athletes, a lucrative pro contract would allow Daniels to better not just himself but also his family. "The chance to make some money and help my parents was on my mind," he related. "But I talked to my Mom and she said ‘Yeah, Brooks, but I can wait.' She can wait until my senior year is done. She wanted me to go to school and finish my degree.

"Mainly she wants me to have fun my senior year."

With the new staff still in transition, Alabama has yet to hire Daniels' position coach (linebacker) or a defensive coordinator. So there essentially was no assistant available to counsel him on his decision.

But a trusted Tide staffer--who just happened to have extensive experience on the subject--passed along some advice. "I talked to ‘TJ' (Strength and Conditioning Coach Terry Jones Sr.)," Daniels said.

Having played eight for the Green Bay Packers---not to mention that he just sent his son (Terry Jones Jr.) off to play for the Baltimore Ravens, Big T's "been there and done that" quotient in regard to the NFL is about as high as it can get.

Daniels (#18) and Charlie Peprah (#26) bring down the Vandy runner. Barring injury, everyone expects Daniels to be a principal leader of next year's defense. (photo courtesy of Kent Gidley, UofA)

"He basically told me that I didn't have any reason to rush into anything," Daniels explained. "I can take my time and have fun my senior year, instead of putting the pressure on yourself to try and leave early. That made sense to me.

"It's good that Alabama has someone like that around us, giving us good advice. I considered what he said in my decision. I just said ‘Okay, I'm coming back for my senior year.'"

Daniels also talked with Saleem Rasheed (now with the San Francisco 49ers), who told him that he was happy with his decision to leave college early.

But after careful consideration Daniels won't be following his example. "I'm very happy with my decision," Daniels said. "We've got great players coming back. We've got a new coach with Coach Price. I'm thinking it'll be real fun on the offensive side. We don't know who our defensive coaches are yet, but we're waiting and working out hard.

"I want to play my senior season for the Crimson Tide."

NOTE: Daniels will be busy this weekend, helping host prospects in town for official visits. He and star linebacker recruit Daniel Brooks of Jackson, Tennessee have become good friends. And yes, the two enjoy the idea of potentially confusing announcers next year should both of them end up playing for the same team.

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