WARREN - James Daniels had three hats in front of him at a table located on the floor of the Warren G. Harding High School gymnasium Thursday.
The one of the left was black with a scarlet buckeye leaf. The one on the right had a white background with BAMA in red and white lettering with an immediate black backing. Finally, the hat in the middle simply said Iowa in block yellow letters.
Daniels had his father, LeShun Sr. on his left, and his mother, Alicia, on his right as he addressed the gathering of media, other family, friends and WGH supporters in the stands - along with the well-dressed Raiders football team in their black sport coats, khaki pants and mustard colored ties. The team, hushed in anticipation, heard Daniels speak his prepared script about each one of his choices - Ohio State, Iowa and Alabama.
After speaking for roughly 2 minutes, he reached for the Iowa hat and put it on - making his verbal commitment. Seniors can't officially sign their National Letters of Intent until the first Wednesday in February.
The 6-foot-2, 282-pound offensive lineman and three-star recruit was highly sought after following last year's performance for the Raiders - grading out at 85 percent and being a first-team, all-northeast Ohio Inland District team and all-Ohio selection.
"Although I was recruited by two of the top-notch football programs in the country, I felt Iowa was the best fit for me," said Daniels, who said he made his decision about a week ago.
Tribune Chronicle / Michael Taylor
Warren G. Harding offensive lineman James Daniels speaks after announcing that he will continue his football career and attend college at Iowa.
Both of his parents graduated from Ohio State and his older brother, LeShun Jr., plays for Iowa. He'll be a sophomore this year.
"Not a lot of people get to play Division I football," James said. "I get a chance to play with my brother. It happens, but it doesn't happen often. It's just amazing."
LeShun Sr., who played line and lettered for Ohio State from 1994-96, was hoping James might carry on the family's Buckeye legacy.
"I was hoping a lot," LeShun Sr. said. "It's his choice. We never want him to regret anything. I think he really was able to develop a relationship with the Iowa coaches, with them offering early and going through the recruiting process with his brother. He's seen the whole interaction and how that acts."
James also liked his future offensive line coach, Brian Ferentz, son of Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz.
"I think he developed a pretty good relationship with the offensive line coach, young, energetic. That's what he really liked," LeShun Sr. said.
It did help the two brothers got a long so well.
"I think that was huge," Warren G. Harding football coach Steve Arnold said. "Him and his brother are tight. I think that played a role. That was the first Big Ten school that offered him, when he was a sophomore. His brother decided to go to Iowa when he was a sophomore, he decided to go back then. I think that played a role. I think his comfortability there. They produce offensive lineman. I'm not saying Ohio State doesn't or Alabama doesn't, but I think you heard him talk about comfortability. He felt comfortable at Iowa."
James plans to graduate from Harding in December and enroll at Iowa in 2015 - being in Hawkeyes camp for spring practice.
He added that Iowa gives him the best chance to play professional football.
"One thing is Iowa's player development is amazing," James said. "I read an article that said every three star recruit has a three times more chance of getting drafted than a regular three-star at any other football program."
James carries a 3.67 GPA and plans to either major in something medical based or head into engineering. Although he's heading to Iowa on a football scholarship, he's dedicated to getting his education first and foremost.
"First, I'm going to college to get my education and my degree. If the NFL doesn't work out, I know I have to get a degree," James said.
It makes Arnold quite happy to hear that news.
"That just shows you where his mind is," he said. "Ultimately, he's going to have a shot at the NFL. He's special. He's good, but his priority is getting his degree and being able to do something with his life after football. His parents deserve a lot of credit. They're first class."
Alicia said her son has been educated well - on and off the field.
"So much of college football is a business," she said. "A lot of times the focus always isn't on the kids getting their degrees. We're really all about getting the degree first. Even if you do go to the next level, it's not a long career. You can't do that until you retire, officially like people do. We're really proud of him for that."
For now, James is preparing for the 2014 season with the Raiders - trying to turn around last year's 4-5 campaign.
"Now, it's time for me to help my team go win the state championship," James said.