WARREN - National signing day for college football has the unique ability to turn teammates into instant rivals.
That happened Wednesday when LeShun Daniels and Jalyn Powell of the Warren G. Harding Raiders signed Letters of Intent to attend Big Ten Conference universities. Daniels signed with the University of Iowa to play running back, and Powell will join the Michigan State University program to play safety.
There will be a few autumn Saturday afternoons in coming seasons when Powell will have to tackle Daniels.
Tribune Chronicle / Dana Sulonen
Warren G. Harding players Jalyn Powell, left, O’Sha Jackson, center, and LeShun Daniels, sign their Letters of Intent on Wednesday.
"I know he doesn't want to get hit by me," Daniels said jokingly. "I'm excited to play against him."
"I'm looking forward to it, too," Powell said.
In addition to Daniels and Powell, O'Sha Jackson announced his decision to play defensive back at Ohio Dominican. The three were key members of a 9-2 team that lost to Mentor in the first round of the Division I playoffs.
Raiders coach Steve Arnold was looking for leaders in his first year after moving over from the basketball program. He found them in Daniels, Powell and Jackson.
"Coming in as a first-year coach they provided leadership for our program," Arnold said. "Jalyn, as a three-year starter, provided toughness in the defensive backfield and was able to make plays on the offensive side (as a receiver) and defensive side. He was someone you had to account for.
"O'Sha was pretty much a cover corner for us. He was able to shut down one side of the field. We knew when we had O'Sha on the opposing receiver that we were going to be in pretty good hands. LeShun carried the load for us as a running back. He carried the ball 25 to 30 times a game and had 1,600 yards. These guys were the total package for our program."
Jackson, who will major in business, felt a sense of relief when he signed his letter-of-intent.
"It's a life-changer," Jackson said. "Growing up here in Warren is a tough place to get out of. If you get caught up you can get stuck. I didn't want to get stuck here."
Daniels had some big decisions to make before finally committing to the Hawkeyes. Prior to his senior season he verbally committed to Boston College, but he decided not to follow through when coach Frank Spaziani was fired after the Golden Eagles finished a 2-10 season.
Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz began putting the hard sell on Daniels, who was quickly intrigued by the prospect of playing for a coach that's known for producing good offensive linemen.
"They tried to sell me on that and how they always get offensive linemen into the NFL," said the 6-0, 220-pound Daniels said. "I feel like since I'm a running back that I really need offensive linemen to help, and that was really attractive to me."
Daniels isn't predicting instant playing time as a freshman, but he thinks he'll have a chance to get on the field.
"There will be opportunities," Daniels said. "I'm going to have to go in there and work and show that I deserve to play. I'm going to work as hard as I can to get on the field next fall."
Powell seemed destined to attend Michigan State from the time he began playing football. His uncle Lavaile Richardson was a talented receiver for the Spartans from 1997-2000.
"I've always been in the program for so long that it felt like home," said Powell, who was a physical force in the secondary for Arnold. "I always went to the games when I was younger."
Powell committed to the Spartans prior to the 2012 season. It's now sinking in that he will be playing in the prestigious Big Ten Conference.
"It's always been a dream of mine," he said. "I always wanted to be playing football in the Big Ten. Hard work paid off."
Arnold expects to see Powell and Daniels on television in the near future.
"Those are two very talented kids," Arnold said. You'll be seeing a lot of those guys on Saturday afternoons for the next four years. Those guys have a lot of potential."
All three helped make life easier for Arnold last season.