Daniels clan finally looking forward to a Super Bowl
There will be no Super Bowl chili simmering at the Daniels' house next Sunday.
That's because the entire family will be at the big game in Minneapolis in person.
They've been hoping for this opportunity for years.
The long and winding NFL odyssey of patriarch Phillip Daniels has finally yielded a trip to the Super Bowl. His first ever.
It's come after nearly 20 years for him in the NFL, with stops in Seattle, Chicago, Washington, Kansas City and Philadelphia.
Daniels, who settled with his wife Leslie and four children in Vernon Hills for 12 years, which included his career with the Chicago Bears as a defensive lineman from 2000 to 2003, is now retired from the NFL after a 15-year playing career.
He turned in his helmet and cleats in 2010.
But Daniels, who also happens to be the father of one of the most successful high school football players in Lake County history, son DaVaris, resurfaced in the league a few years ago for the next phase of his career: coaching. And now, he is a defensive line coach with the Philadelphia Eagles, who will be seeking their first Super Bowl win in franchise history when they take on star quarterback Tom Brady and the New England Patriots in Super Bowl LII.
The Eagles upset the Minnesota Vikings last weekend in the NFC championship game in order to punch their ticket to the Super Bowl.
"When that game (against Minnesota) was over and I found my wife, I definitely shed some tears," Daniels said. "She's been with me since high school. We're high school sweethearts. She knows the struggles, and how hard I worked to get to this place.
"To play for 15 years and to never make it to the Super Bowl as a player, and now, I'm finally going, it's like, 'You can exhale. You made it. You finally made it.' "
Daniels is hoping his son DaVaris will someday make it to the Super Bowl himself, as a player.
DaVaris Daniels, who graduated from Vernon Hills in 2011, played at Notre Dame for three years and is now 25 years old, is trying to make it to the NFL as a wide receiver. He has spent the last two years in the Canadian Football league with the Calgary Stampeders. He was the league's rookie of the year two seasons ago.
Now that his two-year contract with the Stampeders is over, Daniels is hoping to sign on with an NFL team for next season. He's already had multiple workouts with various teams.
"That's always been the dream, to make it to the NFL, just like my dad," DaVaris Daniels said. "That gave me a goal to reach for early in my life."
Phillip Daniels had big goals early in his life, too.
He knew he wanted to be a coach by the time he was in high school.
A native of Georgia, the 6-foot-5, 300-pound Daniels, who can still squat more than 500 pounds, grew up playing quarterback for his high school team, Seminole County in Donalsonville. He was also a linebacker.
Playing quarterback gave him a love for the finer points of the game, the Xs and Os, the strategies.
"My high school coach Walter Landing...I used to love to watch how he coached and prepared," Phillip Daniels said. "I wanted to know everything that he knew and I wanted to learn it. I remember thinking to myself that I wanted to grow up and be just like him."
Daniels wound up playing football at Georgia as a defensive end and got drafted in the 1996 NFL Draft by the Seattle Seahawks. All through college as well as his professional career, Daniels impressed his peers and coaches with his studious approach to football.
"I went through all these years of learning the game and coaches would always say, 'You always have your head down studying and taking notes. You're really great at putting this all together. You need to coach someday."
Daniels said his ideas about football and coaching have been shaped by the many coaches he had over his career, including some of his favorites in the NFL: Greg Blache, Rex Norris and Richard Dent with the Bears, Larry Brooks and Tommy Brasher with the Seahawks, and John Palermo with the Redskins.
"I've had some of the greatest coaches," Daniels said. "And they all taught me different things that I think about now when I coach. My goal is to be able to relate to my players and to help them be great and to stay in the NFL for a long time and to come out healthy like I did."
When Daniels ended his playing career, he immediately went into coaching, first as a volunteer during the final years of DaVaris's career at Vernon Hills. Daniels had a second stint at Vernon Hills several years later and also a coaching internship with the Kansas City Chiefs before he landed his first full-time role as an NFL coach with the Philadelphia Eagles.
Daniels has since moved his family, which also includes children Damara, DaKiya and DaKendrick, from Vernon Hills to Philadelphia so that he can see everyone much more than he did during his playing career, when he was moving teams and on the road frequently.
"It's a great situation for our family in Philadelphia, and I'm just so grateful for the opportunity," Daniels said. "Right now, I'm an assistant coach and I'm having fun, but I also think I'm going to be a hell of a (higher-level) coach someday."
Daniels aspires to be a defensive coordinator or even a head coach, preferably in the NFL.
"I know it's a process," Daniels said. "But my goal is to climb the ladder."
Meanwhile, DaVaris Daniels would love nothing more than to climb the NFL ladder with his dad. While he's at the Super Bowl, he and his agent plan to talk to representatives from all the other teams that will be in attendance.
Those same representatives may also be looking at coaches from both Super Bowl teams, coaches such as Phillip Daniels, to bring into their own organizations for next year.
So, it's possible that the Daniels men, both father and son, could have their names in circulation next Sunday with various NFL movers and shakers.
"Everything is coming full circle for my dad and me to be going through all of this together," DaVaris Daniels said. "A lot of good things are happening right now. Hopefully, 2018 is the year for me and my family. I pray it is."
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