Oh how they've forgotten that Alex Daniels was a 4-star prospect as the #10 safety in the country when the recruiting world first found him n Columbus, Ohio. By the time Daniels had transferred from Marion-Franklin to Brookhaven High School he held offers from Oklahoma, Ohio State, Michigan State and many, many more.
At that time Daniels was a 6-foot-2, 225-pound running back/linebacker with 4.5 forty speed who totaled 100 tackles during his senior year helping Brookhaven to a state championship.
Much was expected of Daniels when he arrived at the doorsteps of college football but life much like the game itself can take strange bounces causing things to change a person's path in life. For Daniels his future would be to a campus he really didn't know much about and a coach willing to offer a second change in life and in football.
How much has life changed for the Bearcats defensive lineman?
"I'm just being a man now since I'm older. I'm not 18 or 19 anymore and can't do the childish things I did when I was younger. I want to be a role model and a great citizen as people look up to me now. I know I must be accountable for my actions now and can't be doing things and blaming it on my friends as it's all on me."
For Daniels the changes have allowed him to do what he's always dreamed about doing.
"I'm back playing championship level football which is what I love; I just feel my growth as a man has exceeded everybody's expectations. Coach Kelly was the one man who had the faith and the confidence that I would be the person I am today. He knows I won't be a problem or a distraction as I come in and do my work as Coach Kelly has given me the confidence to keep succeeding so I'm not going to let him down because he gave me a chance when no one else wanted Alex Daniels."
With the faith shown in him by Coach Kelly and the University of Cincinnati, Alex knows to always be aware of what he's doing.
"My growth as a person is 50-times a 100-time more than I expected because I've got to be that man. I can't be a silly man one day and then when someone sees me they write Alex Daniels is still doing the things he's always done. I've got to be on a straight line so everyone knows I've learned from my mistakes and have learned and grown as a person."
Not only has Alex seen confidence from the Bearcats coaching staff but also with those he's played with.
"I love being a part of all of this. Playing this game with guys like Tony Pike, and Zach Collaros who nobody knew three weeks ago and is now on fire has made this journey such an enjoyable one. Playing with a Brad Jones and Connor Barwin last year has left a lasting impression. Connor showed me so much about the game and has helped me take on the challenges of being a man."
But there was a time Alex really didn't know much about Cincinnati. Now he's found it to be a place that allows him to grow while also keeping in close contact with his family.
"I never even knew where Cincinnati was at. I came here in high school for a 7-on-7 and didn't even know anything about the school. It was about the time the school was about to change from Conference USA to the Big East. But it was still C-USA so I didn't really know God's plan would be for me to come to this university and play with this group of guys and be part of something special. God put me through the fire and the flames and made sure I had the tools to get out of it. Which meant for myself that I had to do everything right so I could do the one thing I love play football. I think I can play this game for a long time but know I must do the right things to even have a chance of reaching that goal. It's just a journey and I didn't think when I was looking at all the letters I got from colleges that I would ever end up here. I'm so happy I ended up here as this is the perfect spot. My mom lives far enough away so I'm not home sick but I'm also close enough to go see here anytime I need to see here."
Looking back Alex wishes he had more of an understanding of what was ahead for him and knows there are kids just like him out there going through the recruiting process without a clue what life as a college student athlete is about. What's his advice?
"Just be humble and take all of your visits and ask the players and the coaches to be honest. You don't want people telling you about how great you are because you'll come in with a big-head and you won't be mentally ready for what college is all about. If you want to play big-time football it's a grind as you work to manage your classes, football and a social life. So you need to focus on you and better yourself as a man first because you have the physical attributes to be a player or they wouldn't be coming after you. Take it one day at a time because it's never going to be like that again."
Growing up in Columbus made Alex feel like a lot of kids when they dream of playing college football. The Big Ten has always been talked about as the place a kid should go play but Alex has learned the Big Ten has nothing on the Big East. Since he's now played in both conferences what differences does he see if any?
"The Big Ten is more smash-mouth, power football, try and run it down your throat kind of a game. They don't really have the type of offenses we have with the spread teams. Pittsburgh has more of a Big Ten power game if you're comparing the style of play. But the Big Ten is more like I'm going to line up my big brother against your big brother and pound you out and beat you out until someone wins."
"The Big East is more like I'm going to cross you over like Allen Iverson and pull up and hit the jumper. If you compare the Big Ten and the Big East you'll find bigger players in the Big Ten but not more athletic players like you'll find in the Big East. Any Big East team can play with any Big Ten team period. Every conference, it doesn't matter what conference your talking about now had good competition."
"I just feel the Big Ten and how we get overshadowed by being in the Big East is an understatement because if they come and play us here in a hostile Nippert Stadium they'll figure out we might not have the biggest stadium but we have a stadium that rocks along with a team that will compete hard on every play. This is tradition at its best. We may not have the biggest lineman but we've got the best lineman for our type of offense and our type of defense. Here in a couple of weeks we get to play a Big Ten team in Illinois and I have a couple of former high school teammates that play for them. I'm really looking forward to the challenge of playing them. I've not talked with them in a while but hope to speak with them before the game. It should be a lot of fun."
As for last Saturday's game Alex said a lot was learned and will be remembered.
"I guess they (UConn) had the perfect plan. One missed step here and a miss step there and the running back squirts out for a touchdown. It wasn't so much what they were doing; it was more of what we didn't do. That's not how we play and is the reason we get over looked and over shadowed because we can't allow something like this to happen. This was a wake-up call for our defense to let us know people are coming after us now. Teams are coming to play and their bringing their A-game every time."
"UConn started running the ball and got some confidence, they score a special team's touchdown and got some more confidence and then a running back scores a touchdown that gave them even more confidence and then they feel they can play with us. We had 700 yards of offense; you shouldn't lose a game when your offense plays the way ours did. We came out with the win but it was up to the defense to stop them and we didn't get the job done. We've watched the film and corrected what we didn't do and have put that behind us now. Now it's time to get ready for West Virginia. We know what they do and they do it well. But we've got to stop it."
And what is it that Alex and his defensive teammates see from the Mountaineers?
"Athletes, Athletes, Athletes, Athletes, I see a very good and athletic offensive line that moves well together. They are kind of young but they are working well together. Then you have #7 who has been doing it now year after year being a game breaker. Losing Pat was like people thought they were going to be bad, but Brown stepped up and he's coming into his own as a player. Their offense is very potent and our defense is going to have to buckle up and tighten it up this weekend and play Bearcats football"