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Have you ever wondered what goes on for football players outside the field? Today, Dan Clark pulls back the covers and looks behind the door of one of the University of Utah’s football stars as Braeden Daniels shares how he’s grown both as a football player and a person since first stepping foot on campus as a freshman. Braeden hails from Carrollton, Texas and runs a high school on the East Side. Tune in as he takes us back to his youth and how he developed his competitive spirit to become a superstar on and off the field.
Braeden Daniels Shares How He’s Grown Both As A Football Player And A Person Since First Stepping Foot On Campus As A Freshman
This is a special edition as I’ve had an opportunity to not just meet but to pull back the covers and look behind the door of some of our University of Utah football stars. We’ve had an opportunity to ask questions and find out about their lives and about what makes them superstars off the field with the reality that they are the University of Utah.
You are the message and one of the finest young men as I’ve read his bio and as I’ve watched him from the fourth row, the 50-yard line, every game since he has been to the U. It’s a pleasure. It’s an honor to have you on this episode, Braeden Daniels. He hails from Carrollton, Texas, Carrollton High School. He runs a high school in Carrollton, Texas, which is out on the East Side.
It’s over by in the Plano area. Incidentally, one of the fascinating things that I’m always curious about is DNA. What in the world do we take from our parents? How much does that gene pool matter when you are an elite athlete like you are, Braeden? His mother played basketball at McNeese State University, which is in Louisiana, one of the top programs in the country.
We will get into that as we drag you through the questions that I can ask you that everybody in the stands wants to know. Number one, when you come from Carrollton, Texas, as a three-star recruit, tell us about some of the other recruiting opportunities that came your way and why you decided to come to my beloved University of Utah.
I was originally committed to the University of Illinois. It was a good program. They had Lovey Smith there. I didn’t feel like it was a fit for me. I wanted to expand and network elsewhere other than throughout the middle of the United States like around Texas and stuff. I wanted to go experience the West Coast. Whenever I was going to take my official visit, I was like, “Mom, I should take this visit.”
I kept seeing the German feather and all the helmets. I kept saying it over and over. I felt like it was a sign and kept seeing it. I took the official visit. Coach Harding kept asking me if he could still continue to recruit me. I said yes, and the rest is history. I like the family culture, the atmosphere, how hard they coach us, the development of the weight room, the nutritionist on the field and the IQ I’ve gotten in the film room with Coach Harding. I enjoyed my years here.
You are also on three years in a row All-Pac-12 Academic Honor Roll. That’s pretty significant. You are a student-athlete at the highest level. One of the things that intrigue me, my friend, is your quickness, your twitch muscles. I watch your agility. As one of the great offensive linemen, it appears from my bandage point as I watch you a lot that you are not just good going North and South going forward or backpedaling or holding your ground in past protection but you go left and right, and you participated at the highest level as a shot putter in high school.
For those of you who think you know anything about shot putting, I challenged you to google that because that is dance. That is Dancing with the Stars. That’s footwork at its finest, hardest, and most intricate level. Teach me how that played out in helping you become more of an agile offensive lineman, not just a straight-ahead pass-run blocker but you are that complete consummate offensive lineman.
I wasn’t going to do anything with the track but my offensive line coach in high school was the shotput and the ski coach. I want to say forced but when I went out there, I enjoyed it. It was fun going out there like our other teammates and being able to compete at a different level in a different sport. I got a chance to do some javelin throws too at a track meet before. It’s a different experience. I wasn’t a spinner in the shot put but I was a glider. That’s the technique that my coach thought me. I feel like that goes almost hand in hand with my past protection and trying to explode out of that lane and then get to that spot, settle, and work on those fine techniques. I feel like being a shot-putter and having to focus on that glide back, many little different things that you wouldn’t think about that would help you throw even further or throw even higher. I feel that it helped my attention to detail and helped me become a better football player.It’s fun going out there and competing at a different level in a different sport. Click To Tweet
That slide technique teaches you how to control your center of gravity and how to move forward and stop on time. Now I look at offensive line blocking differently after I read that about you. I wanted to ask you. It had to pay off. It’s incredibly important. What advice would you give to a young high school star who wants to get recruited by an elite program?
Would you advise them to participate in more than one sport, especially when many coaches are saying, “It’s an individual sport. You got to focus if you’re going to be the best?” In my experience, in my observation, and now what you are teaching us, maybe that’s not the right advice. Teach us. What would you say to a young high school kid?
Honestly, if I were younger, I would experience everything you can. Take advantage of whatever you can because you will never be 15 or 18 again. Take advantage of all the experiences and all the stuff that you can do possibly. It helps me become a better football player. Whatever sport, whether it’s basketball or football will teach you something like if it’s soccer. It’s foot coordination. You are going to get, at least, something from a sport. It will help you in the long run. Take advantage and do all that you can.
Take us back to your youth. What was it like growing up in the home? Your dad is Sigman. Your mom, it starts with the Y, Yeronica. What a beautiful name. Emphasis on sports, competition, brothers and sisters. Talk to us about how you were raised and how you got that competitive spirit.
I was an only child. I was trying to figure it out on my way up. I didn’t have any older brother who taught me about shoes or faster, nothing like that. I had to figure out everything on my own. My mom did what she could to try to keep me hip and up to date. I was always like, “I wanted Nike. Nike this, Nike that.” The socks and all that stuff.
My mom said that I was always energetic. I couldn’t sit down. She put me in soccer. I did soccer. I remember doing karate, baseball, and basketball. I eventually got into football because one summer, I stayed home with my dad and I was eating junk food. I gained a lot of baby fat. Ever since then, I have been an offensive and defensive lineman.
Were you always big for your age or did you have a spurt?
I was skinny and scrawny but I was fast. I got a little spurt between 3rd and 4th grade.
You have always been a lineman or did you ever play any other position?
I was in Little League in middle school and then played for Deion Sanders, an organization called The Truth. I played for him and played D line and a line in middle school at The Truth. Also, in the city where I played in. I didn’t start only playing offensive line until high school because they wouldn’t let me play D line.
Let’s talk offensive line. You were the PAC-12 Offensive Player of the Game twice. Once against the Stanford University and against USC. Most of the time, when you hear an offensive player of the game, it’s the quarterback who comes as here in the huddle, and it’s the wide receiver or running back who seems to get all the pub, and yet you emerged.
How did that happen? Why did they select you? How did they select you in those two games? Take us back to Stanford. What happened that allowed, made, empowered, and inspired you to take your game to the highest level possible and obviously be rewarded and recognized as the offensive player of the week in the entire conference?
The week before, I was a line and met Nick Ford. He had got the PAC-12 Player of the Week. I want the whole with my mom that week. I feel like I got a little bit of the competitive spirit from her. She was like, “How come I keep seeing Nick? How come I don’t see Braeden?” I was like, “I got to turn it up a notch.” I doubted being a little bit more focused and toned in. I watched the film. It was also a short week, too. They might not have been as prepared as they might have wanted to but I was watching the film. I’m analyzing it, and I’m looking at the details and looking at it as the first step. I knew if I could get off the ball faster than him, I could get under his pads quicker and then raise him up.
That was my go-to. I wanted to get movement and then run game that game. I always wanted to protect. I tried to do that to the best of my ability in that game. I know I had a good play. He was being physical all over the field. He had somebody on the ground over here, and then I threw somebody, and he jumped on top of them and then we scored out. It was a fun game. It was a game out, for sure, I remember. It was awesome to be able to receive my first PAC-12 Honors. I fight the USC game.
You were Second Team All-Conference as well. Let’s throw that in. Congratulations. Now, the USC game.
In the USC game, we already knew what was at stake. We knew we had to protect the quarterback.
They led the nation in sacks going into the game.
We knew they led the nation in sacks. We knew they were good players and they were going to play hard. I felt like the offensive line, the old block, we banded together. It was the burning ship mentality. We are going out there, and no matter what happens, we want to win and come up with that victory. All week, we are doing the film study with Coach Harding. We are taking a little extra time, little details, these little packages that they have. We are trying to dissect it to the best of our ability. The other part was executing and trying to go out there and dominate to the best of our ability. I felt like we did a pretty good job.
In football, they say that the offensive line has an advantage only because you know where the snap count is and where it’s going, pass or run. Defense, our advantage is that we can use our hands and be physical in that way. You said you prepared it in a different way, in a higher mindset, way more dedicated, focused way. Yet USC, every single time you got down and set, they would shift. Teach us, from an offensive lineman’s perspective, when you sit down there, and you know what the snap count is, you are concentrated, so you don’t jump offsides.
You know exactly where the run is or the pass, and all of a sudden, the guy you are looking at, you are thinking, “I got to block him, zone block, whatever the case may be.” All of a sudden, he shifts. Take us as fans into your mind and how you prepare for that and how you can quickly shift from, “I’m supposed to be blocking him to I need to protect the A gap or the B gap.”
It starts with film study and knowing that they are going to shift. Also, knowing that sometimes whenever we do get to the line of scrimmage, this front doesn’t look familiar. It looks weird. It’s off. Just because we know it’s something that we haven’t seen before, then they are most likely going to move. You should already be analyzing that in your mind, thinking about it, “They might move.”
Honestly, you shouldn’t even be listening for the move call if you are tuned into our quarterbacks like our cadence because we have different cadences. If you are tuned into his cadence, then you are only listening to that because you know as soon as he says, “Go,” you are trying to get that half-a-second advantage to win that one-on-one matchup.
Coming to the line of scrimmage and the film study and then haven’t seen these fronts before and having the experience from the past years and being able to dissect or execute and change up your mind and knowing like, “Now that these guys have moved, I’m not working with this guy anymore. I’m working with this guy.” Have a great knowledge and understanding of the play as well.
Knowing where the play is going to go and knowing how to block them or butt block them. There are different scenarios that can happen. The last thing is if they are going to move and do a lot of movement and take short choppy steps, so you can have that center of gravity and that balance and still will be able to load up and break their leverage.Know where the play will go and how to block things because different scenarios can happen. Click To Tweet
That’s a shot-putter mindset and body set. Let’s talk personal. What’s your pre-game routine? Do you put on your headphones and listen to music? What kind of music? Do you camp out? When I had Clark Phillips in here, he says, “My dad is a preacher. I listen to gospel music.” I was like, “He’s out there getting fired up by listening to a hymn.” Talk to us. Teach us what your pre-game routine is on a short week versus a longer week and an early start kickoff time versus a late-night kickoff time.
I will down my attention more on football, stop worrying about school, try to separate myself from the world and make it only football and dial in. I like to watch more films rather than watching them as a whole and knowing what they are going to do. I will tune in and try to watch the person I’m going to be coming against the whole game.
The night before, you will go right in and isolate and film study.
I try to do that. Our coach likes to say that we have the best Fridays in football. We usually watch a movie or something like that and all that stuff. Usually, I will wake up and talk to my mom and my dad.
Talk to your mom and say, “What do you mean, Nick Ford? Don’t be talking about Nick Ford ever again.”
I usually wake up and will do our team walk and all that stuff. I will probably cut on some Tupac or Biggie Smalls. I will start speeding it up and trying to get songs more aggressive. The offensive line, it’s a mindset. You got to be a tough guy. I’m trying to put that mentality in my head. I don’t like R&B or anything like that. I asked Kim and the other guys on our team. They say they listen to R&B and stuff. I’m like, “I get it because you are trying to get in your game.” I feel like the offensive line is trying to go out there and trying to put your hands on somebody. It’s a physical battle.
For those who have never played the game, football is not a contact sport. Dancing is a contact sport. Football is a violent experience where you rip the guy’s lips off and always show up at the line of scrimmage in a bad mood.
Up until the game, we usually have those late PAC-12 games. That’s when I sit down and watch more films. I will have the Normatec boots on, trying to do recovery, rolling out my feet, preparing for a game, and trying to feel the best I can before the game, so I can go out there and dominate.
Let’s play this game for a second. You break the huddle, and it’s on two, and a lineman jumps off the sides. What is your opinion? Why would a lineman jump off the sides? Does he have something going on in his life, fights with his girlfriend or his mom is sick? There might be something going on in his life. Can we empathize with them like, “You got to get it right. I’m going to get my mind on football and blow out all the distractions?” That’s sometimes superhuman. We are human. We are young men, and you’re out there doing your very best. Teach us how you deal with adversity. How would you recover and block off so that you can still be there for your teammates and yourself?
The defensive coaches at the University of Utah say something like, “Once we walk into that door, leave all your problems at the door. We are just focusing on football here.” I took that to heart because if you want to perfect a craft or be excellent at a craft, then you have to be able to block out different distractions and have a singular focus at a singular time.
Once we are done on the field, and we have a victory, we come out with a W, then you can focus on the other things. Whenever it’s time to dial in and focus and when an offensive lineman jumps offsides, you could have things going on in your life or whatever but at the end of the day, you got to be able to block all that out. You should have already blocked it out before you even stepped onto that field.
When you walk to that door, you sign that piece of paper like, “I’m going to give it everything I have and do whatever it takes.” There are a lot of things going on in an offensive lineman. We have to be perfect. Knowing that we can’t be perfect, we still have to execute. If it’s on two, then sometimes you get jittery. You are trying to get off the ball. You are trying to get that extra half-second. It comes to dialing in and focusing whenever you see it as moving back and forth. Sometimes, they will purposely say, “Move,” loud to meet the offensive line and jump offsides. If you dial in and listen to that quarterback snap count, then you shouldn’t have a problem.
Let’s transpose that into real life. If you are that good and on the field working with change, adapting to change, being resilient, you’ve missed your block and your guy, your defensive lineman. You play guard obviously. You are in the A gap. They blitzed, and the linebacker came up and sacks the quarterback. Everybody in the stadium knows it was Braeden Daniels who fell down.
How do you get back up for the next play, forgive yourself, and fire up and say, “No matter what my past has been, I have a spotless future. I can’t always control what happens but I can always control what happens next. Here we go?” How do you do that from a mental and emotional perspective to let go, learn, and fire up again because now matters? There’s not a flipping thing you can do about the last play. You got to focus. Teach us.
All of our coaches at practice or during the game might mess up on a play or be half a step short and get beat or hands get swiped, and you will go down. I’ve learned from my experiences and my past that it has to be that next-play mentality. Even though you know that you messed up and you are going to get chewed out in the film room, it has to be that next-play mentality. Our old block messes up on the field or somebody misses a block or we have a sack or jump offsides. It’s always that next-play mentality like, “Next play, forget about it. You can’t do anything about it now. We will get in the film room later, and we are going to learn. We are going to critique you.”
It’s going to be hard coaching but at the end of the day, you are not going to make that mistake again. I feel like that’s one of the reasons that I want Utah. I wanted to be coached by Coach Harding because I know he’s a hard coach, and he’s going to be on you. I’ve asked him like, “Coach, be hard so that I can learn from mistakes, and I won’t make them again.” It has to be that next-play mentality and learn from mistakes, so it won’t happen.
Do you have a girlfriend, a wife or the main squeeze?
I always tell people I’m married to the game.
The reason why I got that deep in snooping around your personal life is that I want you to teach us what you’ve learned from football that immediately applies to life. You have all the skillset, character, and intangibles to make it at the next level playing in the NFL. When you are rich and famous, I hope you remember me. Other things matter. Teach us how you can take what you know as a football player and apply it to personal relationships or professional relationships when football is over.
Honestly, the biggest thing that football has taught me is to follow your dreams but also how to fight through adversity and work towards your goals and ambitions. Football has helped me create a work ethic. If I want something, you are going to work hard enough for it and go and get it. I feel like that’s something that football has taught me, too. Being the only child, I was shy. I would always sit back and watch. This sport, I’ve learned a lot from it.
I wouldn’t say it’s taught me everything about life. It gives me different perspectives on life and being able to have different relationships with all the people on our team, Polynesian, Black, Mexican, whatever it is. Whatever ethnicity or religious beliefs they have, it’s helped me learn how to connect with different people. Being an only child, I didn’t have a brother or sister. In a way, it’s a brotherhood for me. I have brothers and people that I can call and pick their minds and get their perspectives on life.
As we wind down, it teaches us about how the culture here in Utah is different from a lot of other cultures, maybe even different than Carrollton, Texas. I played football and baseball at the U. I grew up here, going to East High and then following my heart to the U. Sometimes, when you are here, you don’t understand how different and how special it is. I always want to ask someone who came in from out of state, from outside of our culture, how does it stand out? Back to the recruiting question, why are you so excited to be a Ute? Why are you committed to staying here and not jumping early to the NFL draft? Why is this even a great place to raise your future family?
When I first got here, I wouldn’t say it was a culture shock but it was a big change for me being thousands of miles away from home and only being able to talk to them on the phone. My mom will come up to the games and stuff but she drops me off at college. I’m like, “This is real. She’s not coming back. I’m going to see her but I got to grow up now.” It was definitely an experience for me. When I first got here, staying in the dorms, I was still trying to figure things out. I didn’t know anybody. As I’ve gotten older, I started to get a car. I started to understand the city and how it works. Understand that it’s a grid. It’s a big box.
I started to find more and more food places and find where the good food spots are, and the views and all that Utah has to offer. The biggest change for me was the food places. I miss Whataburger so much. They didn’t have anything here. You got to stick with Chick-fil-A and Chipotle. It was a big change. I’ve enjoyed my time here. I’ve gotten a chance to go snowboarding and visit the mountains and go into the canyons. I still want to do more stuff and would come back and visit. I know there are a lot of opportunities and money stuff to be made here. I enjoy Utah, though.
As we wind down, we are cognizant of NIL, Name, Image, and Likeness. How can we, as a business community and as a family-oriented culture, support you, Braeden? You are one of the fine young men. I can’t compliment you enough on here of what your reputation is. As I’ve asked around, as I’ve asked teammates and coaches, they compliment you.
They say you are exactly the same off the field as you are on the field. You are a student of life, not just a student of the U. How can we help you? How can we keep in touch with you? How can we reach out to you? Give us some way. Do you have a Twitter call sign, stud, muff and hunk or sexy dude? Teach us how we follow you and how we can reach out to you.
You can follow me on Instagram and Twitter. I’m about to come out with a couple of shirt-line. I’m going to put my picture on a shirt. I’m going to have a pairing line as well. Support me. Represent me.
What’s your Instagram?
Obviously, 71 in the program, number 1 here. You talk about food. What’s your default food? If you are living by yourself if you come home and there’s nothing in the refrigerator, what are you going to make? What’s your favorite of all time food?
Being from Texas, my uncle and my dad love grilling. I like some good barbecue and a smoked steak, and some steak and shrimp or something of that genre. I feel like you can do a lot with it, put some fried rice with it or mashed potatoes, whatever you want. I’m a big barbecue guy.
There we go, NIL. Any business in the restaurant world, you need to start throwing some big money after Braeden Daniels gets him to be your spokesperson with that little barbecue, maybe on the edge of his slip right here before a game to make sure we all crave what you crave.
It’s such an honor to meet Braeden Daniels. I challenge everyone to watch him as closely as I do, number 71, not just while he is on the field because sometimes, in the congestion of a run play or a pass play, you don’t get a chance to watch their footwork and handwork. Watch Braeden when he comes off the field, how resilient he is, how supportive he is of his teammates, how he flashes that giant smile and that cool hairdo.
He lets everybody know he’s there. He’s a Ute. He’s proud to be a Ute. I can’t compliment you enough for being a fine young man. If you need any help, call your mom sometime, a reminder that you are all about a bag of chips. I will be more than happy to do that. Thanks all so much. We appreciate you. That’s going Ute time with Braeden Daniels.
About Braeden Daniels
DANIELS QUICK HITS
48 career games played, 42 starts (18 at LG, 13 at LT, 11 at RT).
Pac-12 All-Conference first-team in 2022, second-team selection in 2021.
2022: Has started all 13 games at left tackle.
Pac-12 All-Conference first-team.
Named Pac-12 Offensive Line Player of the Week for his performance in the win over No. 7 USC.
Helped guide the Utes to over 500 yards of total offense and averaged 7.4 yards per play in the win over the Trojans.
Helping the Utes rushing attack that is averaging 220.2 yards per game and 5.5 yards per carry.
Part of the offensive line that has only allowed 9.0 sacks this season, which ranks sixth in the FBS.
2021: Started all 14 games (3 at LG, 11 at RT).
• Named All-Pac-12 second-team.
• Earned Pac-12 Offensive Lineman of the Week after Utah’s win at Stanford.
2020: Played in all five games with one start (Washington State), seeing action on the offensive line in four.
• Pac-12 All-Academic Honor Roll.
2019: Started all 14 games at left guard.
• Pac-12 All-Academic Honor Roll.
2018: Redshirt played in two games.
• 13 total plays with a season-high 10 plays vs. Weber State.
High School: Three-star recruit by 247Sports and Rivals out of Hebron HS.
• First-team all-district selection in 2016.
• Hebron won Area and Bi-District Championships in 2016.
• Also competed in track and field, finishing third in the area and district in the shot put in 2017.
Personal: Son of Sigmund and Yronica Daniels … mother played basketball at McNeese University … full name is Braeden Edward Daniels.