DaVaris Daniels has more than just a passing interest in the Super Bowl on Sunday.
His father, Phillip, is an assistant coach with the Philadelphia Eagles, who’ll face the New England Patriots at US Bank Stadium. After playing in two straight Grey Cups with the Calgary Stampeders, Daniels will make a third consecutive championship game appearance Sunday albeit as a fan in Minneapolis, Minn.
“That will be really hard for me,” Daniels said with a chuckle. “As a player you have control over your preparation and what you want to do in the game.
“Being a fan and having no control on what happens, that’s the hardest part.”
Phillip Daniels is completing his third season as Philadelphia’s defensive quality control/assistant defensive line coach but making his first Super Bowl appearance. The 44-year-old played 15 NFL seasons as a defensive lineman with Seattle (1996-99), Chicago (2000-03) and Washington (2004-10) and inspired his son to follow in his footsteps.
“My dad gave me something to strive for early in my life,” Daniels said. “I always wanted to be a football player like him.
“He’s always been there to give me words of encouragement or advice on how to be a professional. I’ve always taken that to heart, he’s taught me some pretty good lessons.”
One of the most important was how to deal with losing in football.
“Early on as a kid I just hated losing and I’d cry (after a loss),” Daniels said. “My dad taught me you’re going to have losses in football and life and you’ve got to learn how to deal with them.
“I’ve been through a lot and he’s always been there to help me get through it all.”
Daniels’ first two seasons in Calgary put that life lesson to the test. Both times, the heavily favoured Stampeders lost in the Grey Cup (39-33 in overtime to Ottawa in 2016, 27-24 last year to Toronto).
“This last one, especially, really hurt because it was my third time (losing a championship game),” Daniels said.
Daniels’ first setback came in the ’13 BCS championship game while at Notre Dame. He had six catches for a career-high 115 yards in the Irish’s 42-14 loss to Alabama.
“They (workouts) have gone well, hopefully something happens,” he said. “If not, I’d love to go back to Calgary.
“I’m just taking it one day at a time.”
Daniels was the CFL’s top rookie in 2016 with 51 catches for 885 yards and nine TDs in just 11 games. His production dipped last year – 47 catches, 743 yards, four touchdowns in 13 games – but Daniels had 11 receptions for 113 yards and a two-point convert in the Grey Cup loss to Toronto.
New England is a 4.5-point favourite to win its sixth Super Bowl title Sunday. But being the underdog is nothing new for the NFC East-champion Eagles (13-3).
Many figured Philadelphia’s season was over when starter Carson Wentz suffered a season-ending knee injury Dec. 10 in a 43-35 win over the L.A. Rams. But the Eagles finished 2-1 under backup Nick Foles before beating Atlanta (15-10) and Minnesota (38-7) in the playoffs.
The life of a football coach can be a long, tedious one. It often consists of early mornings, late nights and plenty of time spent evaluating practice and game video.
“It’s crazy,” Daniels said. “My dad is probably up at 5:30 a.m. and doesn’t get back home until around 11 p.m. most days.
“There’s a lot of preparation to make sure players are ready. But my dad has been waiting for something like this all his life.”
And Daniels can see following his father into coaching once he’s finished playing.
“I definitely wouldn’t put it past me . . . I love football,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to be a receiver so being a receivers coach would definitely be something I’d be interested in.”
So how would coach DaVaris Daniels attack New England’s defence?
“With the ground game the Eagles have I’d probably try to establish the run,” Daniels said. “Then I’d try to dink and dunk down the field and get Foles comfortable instead of trying to do too much too early.
“You have to try to keep (Patriots quarterback Tom) Brady and those guys off the field so I think the run game will be most important thing to winning this game.”