Special audience for DaVaris Daniels
Redskins' Daniels will finally get to watch his son, Vernon Hills' star WR, play on Friday
DaVaris Daniels used to ignore any advice his father Phillip Daniels gave him about football growing up.
DaVaris sought to make his own name in the game, and part of his strategy was shrugging off whatever tips his father, a former Chicago Bear, looked to pass on.
It wasn't until high school that DaVaris, now one of the country's top high school wide receivers, realized his stubbornness was actually impeding his football progress.
"It took me a while to tell you the truth," said DaVaris, a 6-foot-3, 190-pound senior at Vernon Hills (Ill.) High School. "At the end of my freshman year, I started listening a little more. I was kind of my own person. He pulled me to the side, and we had a talk one night. It was kind of one of those things like a realization moment. 'He's been through it, and he's made it. If you want to make it, you got to have him on your side.' It started to pay off right away."
Ever since, father and son have been talking football nearly non-stop. Phillip's conversations with DaVaris always begin with the usual topics: grades and emphasizing hard work in the classroom. But they ultimately end about the game they both love.
Often those talks occur on Skype or over their cell phones with Phillip located in Washington D.C., playing in his sixth season for the Redskins, and DaVaris back in Vernon Hills finishing up his senior year. Phillip has watched DaVaris play this season on the Internet, but they haven't seen each other in person since Phillip left for training camp in July.
But the NFL schedule worked out in the Daniels' favor this season. With the Redskins traveling to Chicago to face the Bears on Sunday, father and son will reunite this weekend, and Phillip will be able to watch DaVaris play in his regular-season finale on Friday night.
"It'll be nice to see him," said Phillip, who had originally moved his family to the Chicago area when he played for the Bears from 2000-2003. "I see him on film. My wife says he's a little taller and a little stronger."
DaVaris was excited for his dad to see him play live.
"I should probably put on a show for him because this is the only time I'll see him," DaVaris said.
DaVaris has excelled this season as a quarterback, wide receiver, running back, defensive back and kick returner for the 7-1 Cougars.
DaVaris' numbers this season have put him in the running for ESPNChicago.com's High School Football Player of the Year award. He has completed 7-of-17 passes for 112 yards and one touchdown, caught 11 passes for 290 yards and four touchdowns, rushed for 363 yards and six touchdowns, returned two punts for touchdowns, intercepted three passes and scored two defensive touchdowns.
DaVaris' season has been especially gratifying because he was hampered by a hamstring injury last year that never allowed him to showcase his ability.
"I wasn't able to do as much as I normally could," DaVaris said. "As soon as this year came, I knew what I could do. Everything's fallen in place and everything's been perfect."
Phillip's only concern was his son's health this season. Phillip prayed DaVaris' troubles were behind him because he knew last year wasn't much fun for him.
"He looks like the old DaVaris, the one from freshman and sophomore year," Phillip said. "That's the thing, having fun. Football can be draining on you and so demanding. You know your ability. I know what DaVaris can do. He can run a 4.4 and has a 42-inch vertical. He has the ability. Just go out and have fun. Everything will take care of itself in the end. That's how it is and how it'll always be."
Phillip marvels at his son's athletic ability which is far advanced from his dad's at that
"I ran a 4.8 and he runs a 4.4," Phillip said. "I jumped 33 inches, and he jumps 42. I can't match him athletically. But I'm a defensive guy. I've played 15 years in the NFL, and athleticism has nothing to do with it. He's an offensive guy. He'll probably play 20-some."
Before DaVaris gets a shot at the NFL, he will take his game to Notre Dame after committing to the Irish in September.
Phillip was proud of how DaVaris handled himself throughout the recruiting process, enduring the constant calls from recruiting services asking him for updates.
Phillip got involved publicly in DaVaris' recruiting when a Chicago newspaper reported on June 21 that DaVaris was going to commit to Miami at a press conference the following day because his grades weren't good enough to get into Notre Dame.
Following the story, DaVaris cancelled his press conference, and Phillip began defending his son. Phillip went as far as getting into a heated exchange with another person in the comments' section of the story on the paper's Web site.
"It was wrong," Phillip said of the story. "They were wrong. I let them know they were wrong. It's my job to protect him from that."
DaVaris said he was going to Notre Dame all along.
"It was Notre Dame for three or four months," DaVaris said. "It never changed. There's a lot of Notre Dame fans out there. They were pulling for me to go there. It's kind of crazy. I'm really happy to be a part of that family. I'm happy to have it over with. It's another relief."
Being an ESPNU Top 150 prospect and a Notre Dame recruit, DaVaris is beginning to become the bigger name in the family. It's no longer the case that DaVaris is Phillip's son, but rather that Phillip is DaVaris' dad.
"When I go home to Chicago and just going to the movies, the kids are asking me where he is," Phillip said. "That's what you want, not that his father is a famous NFL player. They might mention me now and then."
Phillip must decide after this season whether to catch DaVaris' games next year live at Notre Dame or on TV while continuing his own playing career. Phillip, 37, isn't sure what he will do.
"You never know," Phillip said. "I feel good. We'll see what happens. I'll take it one year at a time. I'm having fun with it. I'm playing well and making plays when I'm out on the field. That's the one thing about it. I always loved football."
And now DaVaris does, too, and Phillip enjoys sharing that with his son.
"He's not around to experience all the stuff I'm going through," DaVaris said. "He's really curious. He just wants to know what I'm doing in football. He watches the film and everything. He tells me what I'm doing wrong, and he also tells me what I'm doing right. Whatever he says, I'm going to listen. Any time he's patting me on the back for as long as he's been in the league and seen things, it must be good."
Scott Powers covers high school and college sports for ESPNChicago.com and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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