TJ Daniel has stepped up when the Rebels need him
Published 11:32 am Wednesday, November 8, 2023
To make a deep playoff run, you need new players to step up each week. On Friday, Chambers Academy got a huge lift from an unlikely source.
The Rebels dominated Escambia Academy 58-18 to advance to the second round of the playoffs. A huge part of that win was the play of TJ Daniel.
Daniel has been a contributor on defense all season. With Jacob Norgard out, Daniel finally got a chance to shine on the offensive side. He did just that, Daniel took three carries and turned it into 52 yards and two touchdowns. Daniel also converted a two-point conversion.
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Daniel has started all season at outside linebacker, and he has been a big part of the Rebels’ dominant defense.
“He has steadily gotten better and better,” Chambers Academy coach Jason Allen said. “He’s gotten more comfortable with his teammates and being at a new school.”
Daniel has not played as much on the offensive side, but he has added some depth at running back. Daniel also provides a different style compared to Chambers Academy’s two primary running backs, Luke Tarver and Norgard.
“He’s got some size,” Allen said. “He runs with good forward lean. He’s been able to step in there and help us on the offensive side as well.”
Most players would be upset to see a small role on the offensive side, but that never crossed Daniel’s mind. He just played his role and celebrated the success of his teammates.
Daniel did not take all his attention off of the offensive side though. While focusing on becoming better on the defensive side, Daniel also used practice to learn from Tarver and Norgard and continue growing his game.
“I didn’t have a selfish mindset,” Daniel said. “I always knew that my time would come. Whenever they call me in on offense, I do my part. I’m learning from them because I’m adapting to the system. I’m just really learning.”
Daniel transferred to Chambers Academy from Handley before the regular season. At first, Daniel did not let anyone know that he was moving from his hometown school.
After arriving and taking in the atmosphere, Daniel let his cousin, Koreen Henry, know what it was like at Chambers Academy. Henry then decided to transfer, and the two have become a pivotal part of the program.
“I think they’ve both been really good for our team,” Allen said. “They made the kids around them better. I think they’ve both started really playing their best ball.”
Having his cousin come to Chambers Academy with him did not just help the program, it also helped Daniel adapt to his new teammates.
Henry transferring to become a Rebel gave Daniel a familiar face to connect with. Now the two have become like family with the rest of their teammates.
“We didn’t really expect to do all this,” Daniel said. “I just knew our connection was going to be good. Now, all of us are like brothers.”
Allen did not know at first whether Daniel could fit in and become a contributor to the team. Daniel has worked tirelessly, and his coach has seen him develop as the season progressed.
“He’s become a better practice player,” Allen said. “He just understands what we ask of our dog linebacker, which is a lot. He picks up on things pretty quickly. He’s been a physical presence for us out on the edge.”
Daniel came to Chambers Academy expecting to compete for the starting quarterback position. Kole Baker ended up beating Daniel out for the role.
Instead of pouting and quitting on his team, Daniel put his head down and became the best version of himself on the defensive side.
“Me and Kole were going at it,” Daniel said. “I respect Kole for it.”
With Norgard out this week, Allen gave Daniel more time at running back to see what he could do. Daniel let Allen know that any chance he gave him would not be wasted. With an average of 17 yards per carry, Daniel proved that no opportunity for him was going to be wasted.
“I said whenever I touch the ball, I’m going to score, or I’m going to get a first down for you,” Daniel said.
Coming to Chambers Academy has opened up a plethora of opportunities for Daniel. Daniel’s grades have steadily improved, he now has the opportunity to go to college and Daniel has also gained confidence in every area of life.
“I feel like I’ve gotten more confident than I was at Handley,” Daniel said. “I always second-guessed myself. Everything translates over now. I feel like it’s all because of Coach Allen and the team here.”