A visit with Former Husky Derrell Daniels

During his Husky days, Derrell Daniels possessed enough nicknames befitting a cloak-and-dagger novel. He was known alternately as "Double D", "Silent Assassin" and "Piano Man." But Daniels wasn't an international man of mystery. He was instead an All Pac-10 linebacker and captain of UW's last Rose Bowl team in 2000.

These days Daniels works as a recruiting assistant for UCLA under Coach Rick Neuheisel. Daniels will be returning to Husky Stadium this Saturday, as the Bruins and Huskies compete for a conference victory. He also has a unique vantage point, considering that Neuheisel was his coach at Washington.

"For coach Neuheisel, he's loving it," Daniels said. "It's his alma mater and it's a good fit. You know, a lot of people think he should have been given the UCLA job several years ago, back when they hired Bob Toledo. But I think if that had happened, he would have been the same person that he was at Washington. He would have made the same mistakes here.

"In looking back, the U-Dub experience was a great learning experience for Coach Neuheisel," he said. "He learned how to better deal with players, with the media, with recruits and administrators. I think he's in the right place at the right time."

These days, as the state of Husky football is a smoldering rubble, Daniels shakes his head in disbelief.

"The fact that they're 0-9 is a lot to swallow," Daniels said. "I've seen two games this year. From what I've seen, I can't decipher what has occurred. I see they have players who can make some plays. In prior years, they've lost some games, but they were always just a turnover here or big play there from winning the game. That's not happening this year and I don't know why. I know the Washington staff is working hard, and it's basically the same group of players they have had there in prior years. But you would think they would be at least 5-4 and battling for a bowl game.

"I've also seen a lot of stuff written about Coach Neuheisel and how he's to blame for the current struggles at Washington," Daniels said. "I just want to say that that was over five years ago, and there's been plenty of time for them to get back on track. I want to emphasize that I have no ill will toward the current staff at U-Dub, and I know they're working hard. I just have felt that people putting all the blame on Neuheisel need to reflect on how much time has passed since Coach Neuheisel was there as head coach."

Daniels was asked about his fondest memories from his playing days at Washington.

"One of my best memories was from my freshman year in 1997," he said. "We were in the team room getting ready for the (season opener) against Arizona State. Guys like Jerry Jensen, Fred Coleman and Jerome Pathon were normally mild-mannered guys, but they were getting so fired up. When we ran out that Husky Stadium tunnel, the crowd was rocking. We put it to them and won the game.

"My other favorite memory was from the Miami game when I was a senior in 2000," he said. "Miami came to Seattle ranked #4 in the nation and with all this hype. They disrespected us by running right through our stretch lines before the game. We went out there and handed it to them. And that crowd was the loudest one I have ever experienced."

These days at UCLA, Daniels is known by that old standby "Double D". But the stories behind his other old UW nicknames are interesting.

"The nickname Silent Assassin came from the fact that I never said anything," Daniels said. "I would call the play in the huddle, but besides that I wouldn't ever say anything. I would make the tackle and the other guys would hoot and holler and be jumping around. But not me. I would just go back to the huddle and call the next play."

"Piano Man was given to me by Neuheisel when he came to U-Dub," Daniels said. "We were about to head out to Husky Stadium for some conditioning. They had these Metrix bars and then I chugged a couple of energy drinks. We went out and started running shuttles. On about the third shuttle I started struggling and had nothing left to give. I went off to the side and threw up. I went back out there but couldn't keep up with anybody. Neuheisel came up to me and said `Are you alright? You've running like you've got a piano on your back!' And he started calling me The Piano Man. Neuheisel was the only one to call me that.

Added Daniels: "It had nothing to do with me being a big fan of Billy Joel."

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