Daniel "Excited...Emotional" Over The U of A Game

Whenever the two Pac-10 rivals from the Grand Canyon state meet, the atmosphere is electrically charged to say the least. For the senior players on ASU's squad, the game is extremely sentimental, as it is the last time they will wear the maroon and gold at Sun Devil Stadium. For safety Willie Daniel, who grew up in Phoenix in the shadow of this rivalry and played his entire collegiate career at ASU, the deep sentiments towards this game are tenfold than any other senior on the squad.

DevilsDigest: There's so much build up towards this game each year. What have you been thinking about this last week?

Willie Daniel: All I'm thinking about is beating the cats, and making it three in a row for me. My first year at ASU we lost to them in Tucson by six, so I'm just concentrating on beating these guys. This in-state rivalry is huge between both schools. I just want to get on top of the cats. It has been a very disappointing season, but you always get up for the cats. What could be better than finishing my ASU career with three straight wins against the cats?

DD: U of A has been talking trash and guaranteeing a victory, and ASU players have taken that personally and replied that we'll answer on the field. You guys must be mad at stuff like that.

WD: Like you said we don't like to talk off the field. Let them guarantee the win, and talk and do whatever. We leave the talking to the Football field. We're definitely ready to play, we're gonna strap our helmets and bring it. We're gonna bring it to the cats. We're not saying we're gonna win by 50, but we're gonna pound the cats. You can't come to our house and beat us. Especially the cats. Come on now!

DD: When you were recruited out of high school, did you ever consider committing to U of A?

WD: Not at all. I never did, and I never even visited there.

DD: In your mind, as this rivalry diminished at all?

WD: Not at all. This is the oldest rivalry in college Football. We wanna keep this going. It's bitter between both schools, and we just want to take it to them. It's a great game, and this is why you come to ASU, to play these guys and win. That's what we're looking to do.

DD: When you look at your four years at ASU, how would you sum them up right now?

WD: Great time, lots of good times with teammates and bunch of people associated with the school. Football has been very good to me. I had higher expectations for me in these four years, but life is bigger and I still had a blast. It's not quite over me; I still have two games left.

DD: Any one game or one play stand out in your mind during your ASU career?

WD: Not really, I take them all in. I definitely like all the U of A games. You play 40 some odd games in your four years, and you remember bits and pieces of each of them. But when it comes to the U of A games, you remember all of the plays in those games. If I had to answer, I would say my first touchdown my freshman year against Washington State. All the games have been fun. I love playing this (U of A)game.

DD: What does this rivalry mean to you as native of Arizona?

WD: It has a lot of tradition between both schools, and it's just an all out war when we meet. I love being part of that. I grew up here on the north side (of Arizona) and I just want to take it to the guys on the south side. That's just the way it is.

DD: Do you think the younger guys know how important this game?

WD: Today I get to speak to the guys about this rivalry and what it means to me, and how to approach it. I just want to lead them by example so they understand what this game means. Through my emotions they'll understand how important this game is. We just hope that when the players hear me and others talk about this rivalry, they come out with extra drive.

DD: Have you given any thought what you would do after Football?

WD: You always want to give the NFL a try. I would regret it if I didn't give it a shot. If I give it a shot, and it doesn't work out for me, that's life, and that's OK. I'm definitely gonna try for the NFL.

DD: The defense has been maligned for most of the season by the media and fans. Has this been a damper in your last season at ASU?

WD: Just the fact that you're not as successful as you want to be puts a damper on your year. I had a lot of expectations coming into this year, and obviously being 4-5 wasn't one of them. I still got a chance to do something in the last two games. So, it hasn't gone the way I wanted it to. But nothing is perfect, I'm still here and I'm still fighting.

DD: What are your thankful for this holiday season?

WD: I'm thankful for a lot of things. My health, my family, and my little boy – he's my sanity when it comes to this game. All my friends, the friendships of this team, and all the memories I have here. I can go on forever about what I'm thankful for (smile).

DD: Has it hit you yet that three days from now you'll be playing in the ASU uniform at Sun Devil Stadium for the very last time?

WD: I'm starting to realize that, and it's getting closer and closer. I'm just so excited for the game, and all they hype and emotion with it. I know it's senior day and all my family will be there, but I'm just pumped for the game. It's hard to think about this being my last game, because I'm so fired up and emotional to play this game. That's how I feel, rather than being sad that I'm finished here.

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