Change for the best

WARREN – When LeShun Daniels moved from Dekalb, Ill., to Warren halfway through his high school career, he noticed a particular change when it came to the importance of the high school football team.

The city of Warren follows the Warren G. Harding Raiders with a passion he didn’t see in the town 64 miles away from Chicago. The atmosphere at Mollenkopf Stadium was electric every night he played there in the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

“It’s a huge difference, especially in football,” Daniels said. “With the fanbase and the town and how it buzzes on Friday nights, it was just a totally different experience from what I was used to back in Chicago. It was an awesome experience for me.”

With this in mind, he needed little persuasion to come and speak to the kids participating in the 19th annual Nick Frankos Mims-Manoa Football Camp at Mollenkopf Stadium on Monday. The camp participants are students from fourth through 12th grades.

Although Daniels hadn’t participated in the camp when he was younger because he wasn’t in the area, the 2013 Harding graduate said he enjoys helping out the younger players in the camp, especially on the field he made a name for himself as a high school running back and helped him earn an athletic scholarship at the University of Iowa.

“It’s real good for the kids to come out here and sort of get a taste of what we experienced on Friday nights,” Daniels said. “Hopefully, it will help them stay along with it throughout the years, so they can come out here and help the kids and experience what I experienced on Friday nights here.”

For camp co-founder Nick Frankos, Jr., getting players like Daniels to talk to the kids helps get across the message that the kids can be like Daniels when they grow up and put in the time and effort.

“That’s what we try to tell the kids – ‘If you kneel and listen to these speakers and listen to these coaches, they were in that spot 10 years ago,’ ” Frankos said. “Dreams do come true. It starts with hard work, and that’s what we do here. We don’t try to baby them.”

Daniels also was a good fit for Frankos because of his work off the field as well.

Frankos said that in the past few years, he wanted to show that although talent and hard work on the field can lead to becoming successful, like former Raiders Mario Manningham, Daniel Herron and the late Korey Stringer, certain life decisions could derail any plans at playing beyond the high school level.

“Our motto is, ‘Good choices, good decisions,’ ” Frankos said. “There’s no reason to have a guy come in here with all this bling-bling on, driving up in a Mercedes-Benz and telling them how much money he makes. If they’re not making good choices, good decisions and that there’s temptation out there, they might end up in jail or in a bodybag. That’s what we try to focus on.”

The 5-foot-11 Daniels is a prime example of good choices, having been a member of the National Honor Society at the school. He will hope to replicate his success when he takes some sports management and math courses this summer in Iowa City, Iowa, before the start of the Hawkeyes’ training camp on Aug. 3.

The tailback, who rushed for 1,614 yards and 15 touchdowns during his senior season, said he wanted to get across how important education can be – especially for athletes.

“Just working hard on the field and in the classroom and stuff because you can be the best football player in the world, but if you don’t have the grades to stay eligible, you won’t be able to play,” Daniels said. “You can have success both on the field and off of it.”