For Elijah Daniels and his twin, Elisha (both pronounced the same way), there’s never been a question about their brotherly bond. The two Cardinal Gibbons (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) defensive backs have been attached at the hip for going on 18 years now, the pair having the same interests; the same friends; the same hobbies; and the same likes and dislikes. They’ve participated in the same activities, attended the same schools and played the same sports.
“We’re like Beavis and Butthead, except closer,” laughed the safety Elijah Daniels, who clocks in with a 4.48-second 40-yard dash. “We’re real close and we always have each other’s backs. We’re always competitive and we always push each other, but we love each other and will do anything for each other. If someone has a beef with my brother, I’ve got his back. And I know he’s got my back. We’re inseparable. We do everything together.”
Given that, it’s no surprise the Daniels boys, who have been playing football since kindergarten, also line up in the same defensive backfield. Elijah Daniels is a 5-foot-11, 190-pound smashmouth safety; Elisha Daniels is a 6-0, 185-pound versatile cover-corner.
“We both have slightly different games, but we’re most alike in that we’re physical and like to hit,” Elijah Daniels said. “That’s what we were always taught to do. Our coach told us when we came in that everyone has to pay a toll, and we took that to heart. We’re head busters; that’s what we’ve always done. We feed off each other, for real, and that’s a bad, bad thing for offenses.
“But my brother, he’s more of a versatile defensive back. He can play safety, corner and nickel. He’s got a lot of range, and he’s very aggressive. He makes plays all over the secondary. But I’m more of the head buster; I’m a downhill strong safety that likes to play in the box and deliver the boom. I’m a ball-hawk too, but I love to hit and bring the pain. I remember growing up, I’d hit my brother and he would always be like, ‘You don’t have to hit that hard (laughs).’”
The Daniels’ gridiron prowess attracted numerous looks from Division I college assistants, although their insistence on attending the same school turned some potential suitors away. Even so, the pair ended up with a multitude of scholarship offers from programs throughout the ACC and Big Ten. Elijah and Elisha ended up committing to Minnesota back in June, the Gophers insisting they wanted both Daniels brothers in their program.
“Elisha is the other half of me and we always dreamed of going to the same college together. We worked so hard to make that happen," Elijah Daniels said. “So that’s what we’re going to do. I’m thankful that Minnesota and a few other colleges gave us that opportunity. We’ve truly been blessed.”
Maryland was the latest school to present the Daniels’ with that chance. UMD headman D.J. Durkin offered the Florida defensive backs Dec. 19, immediately piquing their interest.
“When we called Coach Durkin, he ended up talking to both of us at the same time,” Elijah Daniels said. “At first he was just talking about the team and what he wants to do with the Maryland program. Then he said he loved both of our games and thinks we play football the right way – the way he wants to see. And then he offered us and told us he’d love for us to be part of the Maryland program.”
Although they’d been firm Minnesota commits since June, the two were thrilled to have another Big Ten option on the table.
“The offer definitely caught our attention. It’s a great opportunity, a great program, and it’s a blessing to have,” Elijah Daniels said. “When Coach Durkin got the job at Maryland, that caught my eye before he even got in touch with us. I saw what he did up at Michigan and also at Florida. He has a great defensive reputation, so that’s something that sticks with both me and my brother.
“And I could tell just talking to Coach Durkin he’s going to get things done there. He’s going to make some noise in the Big Ten. That guy’s got all kinds of fire.”
Elijah Daniels said Durkin didn’t delve too deeply into Maryland itself during their conversation, but the two recruits did know some about the Terps already. They’re well aware of the Under Armour affiliation (“the jerseys are awesome,” Elijah Daniels said), naturally, but they’re also a fan of one of the team’s star corners.
“We actually grew up watching Will Likely. My dad, he went to high school at Belle Glade, so he used to take us to games there on Friday nights,” Elijah Daniels explained. “And Will Likely was the star of the team, and me and my brother would watch him like every play. So to now see him doing his thing up at Maryland, that definitely makes [UMD] stand out. That catches our eyes for sure.”
Beyond that, Elijah Daniels said he and his brother are in the research phase. But both plan to officially visit College Park, Md., during a weekend in January. They insist they’re still committed to Minnesota, but will give the Terps a shot to win them over.
“I know it’s a new coaching staff with a new vibe at Maryland, so we want to take that official and find out what the program’s all about,” Elijah Daniels said. “We haven’t decided on a date yet, but I’ll be talking to Coach Durkin next week or after the holidays to set one up.
“Right now we’re committed to Minnesota, and that’s our school. But we also don’t want to put all the eggs in one basket. Right now I think it was the right decision to go with Minnesota, but we’ll see how the atmosphere; the staff; and the vibe is at Maryland. Then we’ll go from there and make a decision.”
The Daniels’ may also take a look at UCF and Iowa State, two more programs that want both defensive backs, but neither is considered a serious contender for their services.
Elijah Daniels did say the duo still has much love for Minnesota, however. They officially visited Minneapolis, Minn., Oct. 31, conceivably firming up their pledge.
“When [the Gophers] offered us, we loved the staff; the feel of the campus; and the great family tradition there. We bonded with the players, coaches and the rest of the staff,” Elijah Daniels said. “They always had a welcoming family there, and that’s what me and my brother are looking for. I know if we go there, we’re going to fit in well and we’re going to be welcomed.”
Note: Elijah Daniels also commented on another Minnesota pledge Maryland offered Dec. 19. He said receiver Dredrick Snelson (Flanagan/Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.) would be taking his UMD official along with the Daniels brothers and would likely opt for the same college:
“Me, Elisha and Dredrick have played with each other for a long time. We played on the same 7-on-7 teams, the same youth-league teams, and we’ve always talked about going to the same school," Elijah Daniels said. "Dredrick is a great player, and we just really have bonded over the years. He’s going to be coming to Maryland with us for the official, and most likely we’re all going to be attending the same college. But we'll see how it works out.”