The USC Trojans clearly view incoming freshman JT Daniels as the team’s future. The Mater Dei product has all the talent in the world, but will he be able to bring a championship back to LA?
Yes, JT Daniels is the obvious choice for the biggest true freshman to watch this upcoming season. And there is a reason for that.
Daniels will join the Trojans with an unreal amount of hype surrounding him. In the 2017 season, the 6-foot-2 and 205 pound quarterback led Mater Dei to their first state championship win in eighteen years. Because of Daniels’ play, Mater Dei had the entire nation buzzing as the number one high school football team in the country. Just a couple days ago, Daniels won the Gatorade Athlete of the Year award.
So yeah, you can see why everybody involved with USC — the coaches, students, alumni, fans — is so anxious to watch this kid play. Daniels hasn’t even taken a single snap as a Trojan and he’s already a star.
And no, I’m not going to rain on his parade. I’m actually going to try to add even more hype to the arrival of Daniels.
I attended the Mater Dei-St. Mary’s game at Levi’s Stadium back last September as a part of the media for the game. I watched Daniels closely from the sidelines as he made Russell Wilson-like plays of throwing beautiful deep balls, scrambling around the pocket, and consistently making big plays. There’s only one thought that crosses my mind during the game — “This kid is pro-ready.”
Laugh all you want. How can a high schooler be professional, like NFL-level, ready? But I was — and am — serious about this sentiment. Daniels’ accuracy, strength, wits, and exceptional all-around ability as a passer had me convinced that he was pro-ready. I had never seen any high school quarterback like Daniels. And the best part? Daniels’ tangibles aren’t even the best thing about him.
Prior to the game, I saw Daniels in the 49ers’ locker room hallway marching with his teammates back from warmups to the locker room. All of a sudden, Daniels stops and starts staring intently at something. My eager and unaware self walks up to him and slaps him on the shoulder, introducing myself as one of the media members of the game. He snaps out of this trance and responds with the utmost courtesy to me. After we finish our talk, I look at what he was staring so closely at — a set of football values imprinted on one of the walls of the locker room hallway — values which he seem to truly believe in, helping him experience continuous success in the game of football.
During the game, Daniels is dominating on the field, but when he’s not on it, he immediately calls his offense together to watch film together. He is clearly the de-facto leader of the offense, and every single player on the team possesses the utmost respect for him.
After the huge 52-14 win for Mater Dei, Daniels answers my question about one of the Houdini-like plays he made during the game.
“There was good coverage, and I had a clean pocket so I really never had to escape,” Daniels said. “I tried to make something happen, so I rolled out left, and just let what happened happen.”
Daniels carries this calm demeanor with him on the field. He’s a leader, but doesn’t crack under pressure. His answer to my question, to me at least, spoke volumes to how comfortable he is on the field throwing the football in high-pressure situations. That’s what greats like Joe Montana and Tom Brady are known for.
Oh yeah, and Daniels is definitely excited to be a Trojan. Just look at my SB Nation profile picture. I didn’t even ask him to gesture with a “Fight On” symbol. He just automatically puts up those two fingers while smiling for the camera. Any athlete who is passionate about their school and its culture will have a higher chance of bringing it success.
The JT Daniels hype train has left the station. And as Daniels starts to get more and more playing time as a Trojan, believe me — it is not going to stop anytime soon.