LOVES PARK, Ill. - J.T. Daniels didn't anticipate the profound life changes ahead when he started the ninth grade.
Not only did Daniels transition to Mater Dei High School in Santa Ana, Calif., he took over as the starting quarterback for its powerhouse football program. Daniels led the Monarchs to a 10-3 record while throwing for 3,042 yards and 33 touchdowns against just four interceptions.
Friday nights might have been the easiest thing Daniels had to figure out. Getting through the week leading up to game day was a different story.
“It was surreal going from eighth grade to freshman year of high school having practice, film and lift in the same day,” Daniels said. “Honestly, it took a lot of senior leadership to get me back on the right track and get me through it. But with the help of our senior leadership and coaching, it was a really great season for me.”
With the on-field success came recruiting attention.
Daniels already lists scholarship offers from Arizona State, BYU, Cal, Notre Dame, UCLA and Washington. He’s the only prospect Notre Dame has offered in the Class of 2019.
Quarterbacks coach Mike Sanford has specifically undertaken the task. Daniels will link up with Sanford and the rest of the coaching staff Monday during his first trip to campus. He’ll be joined by dozens of other prospects as part of the B2GSports 7-on-7 club.
“I’m very excited,” Daniels said. “I hear great stuff about the whole campus. They say it’s a beautiful campus. I know a couple guys that went there. Joe Schmidt, he was a defensive captain last year and was a Monarch. I’m just really excited to see the campus, meet the coaching staff, get in the facilities and all that.”
B2G has been in the Midwest since last Thursday. First the crew took an unofficial visit to Michigan then its teams competed in the IMG 7-on-7 Midwest Regional.
Daniels is one of the quarterbacks for B2G’s elite team, 5-star Blue, which features several other top recruits. Five-star receivers Joseph Lewis and Jalen Hall (2018) are just a couple of the skill position talents to which Daniels can throw.
“The 7-on-7 circuit is awesome for competition and working on my individual skills,” Daniels said. “It’s always fun to get reps with Joseph Lewis, Jalen Hall and all these guys out here.”
They can also relate to the recruitment Daniels is already experiencing.
Lewis and Hall also hold Notre Dame scholarship offers. But Daniels might already have a better feel for the program than most. He’s connected with Schmidt, a former Mater Dei linebacker, to talk leadership and life.
Sanford has also made sure to brief the 6-foot-1, 190-pound prospect on what to expect during Monday’s visit. Daniels expects to see a dose of the familiar even on new ground.
“He talked about the traditions of Notre Dame,” Daniels said. “He said it’s very similar to Mater Dei but a college. It’s a hard-working school. We’re determined. We keep it in the classroom as well as we do outside and we just do our jobs.”
B2G is no stranger to Notre Dame — last spring the group also made a trip to campus. Wide receiver Javon McKinley and safety D.J. Morgan both participated in that tour and ended up signing with the Irish. They’ll both enroll as freshmen in June.
Daniels is nowhere near that stage with a few years left before he signs.
“We don't look too much into it right now,” Daniels said. “I love getting recruited. It’s a great honor from all the schools that recruit me. But until I really get into the later years, until I start visiting and have to pay attention and get into it, I’m really focused on football right now.”
Even without taking a deep dive into the recruiting process, Daniels does have some basic factors that are important over the long haul.
“There’s so many,” Daniels said. “Of course, you have to look at the academic factor. I know I’m gonna be getting into sports science, sports medicine, nutrition and that whole area. That plays a big role for me. I think the coaching staff is massive. I really value alumni too. How do guys that went there look 10, 20 or 30 years later? Just what was their college experience is huge as well.”