Daniels adds to Warren legacy

The gentle giant wasn’t being so gentle on this day.

It was just a regular season high school football game back in 2014 to most people, but to Warren G. Harding’s James Daniels, there was extra incentive.

Daniels was a three-star prospect offensive lineman who was receiving scholarship offers from teams all over the country, including Alabama, Iowa and pretty much every other team in the Big Ten. One team was holding out, even though he was a star at their summer camp.

It was Ohio State, one of the schools he coveted the most. It was late in the recruiting process, so the fact that Daniels, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound senior at the time, had yet to receive an offer was troubling him.

“I kept telling those guys (at Ohio State), ‘You better offer this kid,’ “ Warren G. Harding football coach Steve Arnold recalled. “He liked Ohio State. His mom and dad went there and all that. … Well, they didn’t offer him. He kind of took that personal that they didn’t offer him. Around that time, we’re playing at Lorain, and they had a young man that Ohio State had offered, Rashod Berry. He’s on the team right now playing tight end, but at that time he was a tight end/defensive end.

“James just drilled him into the ground on our sideline, and he helped him up. This is the gentle giant that James is, he helped Rashod Berry up, and he says, ‘Hey, go tell Urban Meyer that.’

“We laugh about that all the time because at that time, you didn’t see that out of James. It was a James Daniels moment.”

Many more moments were to come for Daniels, who ended up picking Iowa over Ohio State and Alabama (those were his final three schools) and had a great college career.

It was so good that he left after his junior year and will undoubtedly be drafted in the early rounds of this week’s NFL Draft.

When that time comes — it could be during Thursday’s first round — Daniels will add to what is arguably the most impressive high school football list in the state of Ohio. Daniels would be the 32nd player from either Warren G. Harding or Western Reserve to reach the NFL. Think about that for a second. Most high schools, even ones that have a long tradition of success, hope to maybe have two or three players reach the professional ranks. Warren has 32!

Sure, that’s technically a combination of two schools. There are eight players from Warren Western Reserve, 11 from the old Harding High School and 13 from the new WGH. Regardless, that does nothing to diminish how impressive of a number 32 is for one city. Teams like Ursuline and Cardinal Mooney may have a few more state titles, but there’s no comparison when it comes to overall ability.

The amount of talent that has and continues to come through Warren is unreal and incomparable. Just looking at the list of NFL players is jaw-dropping. There’s the Browner brothers — Ross, Jimmy, Joey and Keith. There’s a Pro Football Hall of Famer in Paul Warfield. Korey Stringer was on his way to a potential HOF career before his tragic passing. Many believe Maurice Clarett to be one of the best high school running backs ever (who knows what could have been). Mario Manningham made one of the most miraculous catches in Super Bowl history. And that’s just a small portion.

Heck, Daniels isn’t even the first Daniels to make the list. His father, LeShun Sr., played with the Minnesota Vikings, and his older brother, LeShun Jr., played for the Washington Redskins just last year. Now, it’s James’ turn, and he could be one of the better players to join the list.

He’s 6-4, 300 pounds, and he can move (he put up incredible numbers at the NFL Combine). He also comes from a college that annually sends blue-chip prospects to the NFL. He’s just 20 years old, he will likely only improve from here and he excelled against the best players he faced (he also won a one-on-one matchup with former Fitch and Ohio State product Billy Price, also a likely top pick, when the two met in high school).

“You saw it coming,” Arnold said of Daniels’ rise. “He’s a level-headed young man. He has a great family — mom and dad are tremendous. He was really brought up the right way.”

That seems to be what sticks out the most here.

Warren doesn’t always get the best rap. It’s not the most economically booming city. Crime and rough neighborhoods aren’t exactly rare. Unless you’re from Warren, all of it seems to overshadow the good that comes from this city.

But Daniels is the latest proof that anyone can emerge from here and reach their dreams. When parents raise their kids right. When kids listen and stay on the right path. When people from this city have each other’s back and help point the youth in the right direction, you get something special. You get to add to the number 32. More importantly, you get to add a contributing member to a society that needs it.

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