I thought to myself when I first talked to any of the young men from Tallahassee that it would be pretty darn funny if any actually ended up at Nebraska.
The headlines would be obvious. From Lincoln high school in Tallahassee, Florida to Lincoln, Nebraska, home of a team that has battled Tallahassee's own Florida State many o' time before. Certainly, the conclusions or the majority of them aren't necessarily to the liking of the Big Red faithful, but historical losses aside, this just waxed of irony.
There is no irony though in the expectations Muy leaves to those he will arrive to once he steps on campus. In fact, you might say that proportionately they are exactly the same. "When I heard players talk on my visit, they talked about national titles." Danny said. "That's what it's like here. We don't talk about winning district or region, we talk about winning the state title."
"Those guys didn't talk about conference titles or beating any one team. It was about winning it all."
Something Muy is accustomed to having played for one of the best prep football factories not just in the talent-heavy state of Florida, but the entire United States. Lincoln high school is known for two things. One, winning and two, putting out an incomprehensible amount of Division 1-A recruits a year.
Last time I checked, it was around 9 per going back around the last eight years. This year? Lincoln put out a reported dozen.
When you play amongst so many of the elite, even the best or most physically capable can wonder if they are good enough to meet the lofty standards of the team. Are they good enough? Can they compete with some of the best? All these and more were questions Danny asked himself early on in his high school career. "My freshman year, I was like ‘wow, I just want to be part of this team'". Muy stated. "At the end of the season, I got moved up to Varsity and I figured I would stay up there."
And he did, not just staying but cementing himself as one of Lincoln's elite linemen and in the company of teammate, Calvin Darity who has been rated as one of the top five linemen in the entire country, that's elite company indeed.
Just playing in the largest classification in Florida, everyone knows that means you are facing more elite teams just like yourself, football in the Sunshine State considered to be amongst the very best in the nation. With all those credentials though, a team with perennial success and against teams that are equally impressive, in his own mind Muy didn't fully realize his potential until his very last game of his prep-football career.
At the California/Florida Bowl, where the two states clash each year, the very best talent from within each of the stud-heavy states, Danny came to realize a little more of just what he was capable. "There were guys I was facing there that I didn't think they could get that big." he said. "And I think I did really well and to be honest, I wasn't in that great of shape."
You'd have to forgive Muy that one luxury as most post-season games are taken seriously but also with a grain of salt. They are rewards after all for a season of giving everything you have and Danny planned on competing, but he was there for the experience as well. "To me, I considered it a vacation." he said. "I worked out and all that before the game, but not like during the season."
During the season is what matters and again, Florida is full of some of the best talent around. In fact, Muy had the pleasure (depending on how you look at it) of facing not just one of the best, but THE highest rated player in the country his very first game as a starter for the Trojans.
Ernie Sims, rated by everyone and their dog as the creme de le creme, the best there was from one coast to the other, Muy is facing him not just in his first game as a starter, but Lincoln's first game of the year. Even someone of Danny's stature is bound get some jitters from that. "I'm not going to lie to you, I was nervous as hell." Danny said. "I was crazy nervous. It was my first start on varsity, the first game of the season, playing the number one all-around player in the nation."
And the result?
"I actually de-cleated him a couple of times." he said. "Calvin annihilated him, but I put it to him a few times."
That actually brings up a slight misconception that people have about Nebraska linemen in general. Despite the rather intense histories of some recent players like Richie Incognito and Dominic Raiola, members of "The Pipeline" are often considered fairly even-keel in their demeanor, somewhat soft-spoken and because they aren't infamous for talking "smack", even the word "boring" comes to mind. Muy said that he isn't going to set himself apart by breaking that mold, but what the defense gives, he's giving back and then some. "I haven't played against a defense that doesn't talk smack." Danny said. "It's like if you are any good you have to, so sometimes I run my mouth just to get them to shut up."
The proof is as they say though, in the pudding and how you best shut them up is by putting up or in this case, putting them down. And, while Muy is modest off the field, he has one attitude when he steps on that field of play. "If you are out there on defense and you are across from me, I mean, I want to kill you." he said, figuratively speaking of course. "You have to play that way. You don't take anyone for granted and you give everything you have on every single play. That's the only way you win."
It's something Muy and his teammates know plenty about which gives him an edge of sorts as he heads to another winning tradition. It's often said that the difference between almost and all the way doesn't seem like much, but mentally, it's an two worlds apart. Muy knows this and his attitude as he is preparing himself for that eventual trip to Lincoln, Nebraska is setting the stage for his future with the Big Red. "I have to work for what I get." Danny said. "My focus is on killing myself in the weight room and busting my butt every single day."
"The reality of starting as a true freshman, I know what it is, so I'm not worried about that, but if I do the work every single day and just work hard at getting better, I have confidence in being able to compete." Danny right now is being projected to play the center position, one currently held by heir apparent Kurt Mann, but could possibly be taken by current starting left tackle, Richie Incognito.
When you are amongst a tradition of winning like Danny has been in Tallahassee, the excitement and rewards sometimes come from simply being amidst it as you are an actual contributor to it's further success. Muy faces that once more as he plans the next four or so years of his life around his new family at Nebraska. That tradition is something he's excited about, but there's one particular moment that is the embodiment of the Husker tradition he's even now imagining in his mind. "When I went up there on my visit, players told me about what it's like during a game." he said. "They said it was like the greatest feeling they ever felt and it's so crazy, some said they almost threw up."
"I can't wait for that."
We'll assume he meant the game part and not the actual puking, but the sense of what kind of excitement lies ahead is significant for Danny even now.
And now, even though his future at Nebraska has yet to happen, Muy already has an idea of what he'd like to say about his time with the Big Red and what he hopes people will say about him when that time is finally done. "To start on the offensive line at Nebraska, that's saying something right there." he said. "That's it. I mean, to say that you are a starting offensive lineman for the University of Nebraska, that's good stuff. That's what I want to say."
And as for him?
"You want everyone to think of you as a great player." he said. "But, I am a big team guy and this year, it was about being with my brothers. I want to be known as a great teammate and doing whatever I can for them. They are my family and I treat them like that."
"I just want everyone to know that I care."
Steve Ryan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 402-730-5619