Without warning, junior linebacker and varsity rookie Patrick Daniels (No. 51 in picture above) was called upon to play in Loyola’s first game of the season against Phillips after senior Peter Kennedy got hurt early in the first half. Since then, Daniels, a 6-foot, 180-pound graduate of Our Lady of Perpetual Help, has established himself as a productive member of the defense.
MAROON & GOLD: Describe the circumstances that led to you taking the field for the first time as a varsity player.
PATRICK DANIELS: I saw Peter limping around, but I thought he was fine. But [Loyola linebackers coach Mike] Dooley told me to get ready and get into the game. I believe it was a third down. I wasn’t nervous. I was more shocked that I was playing a game this early in the season.
M&G: Did you feel ready to play?
PD: The second drive was the most nerve-wracking because I had time on the sideline to think about everything. I did my best to do my job, which is to stay outside and contain. But I felt ready. I paid attention watching film, so I knew what to do.
M&G: Playing linebacker at Loyola can’t be easy. First and foremost, head coach John Holecek played the position in the NFL for nine seasons.
PD: It’s pretty intimidating. You think about all he has accomplished, and you just want to do everything right all the time.
M&G: After both games, Holecek mentioned you by name as someone who had a positive impact. What does that mean to you?
PD: He’s used me as an example as someone who was ready to play when asked. I was sitting on the sideline that first game not knowing I would play at all. Him saying those things gives me confidence, and it helps me play better.
M&G: Who are some of the players you looked up to before you got to varsity?
PD: Peter and [senior linebacker] Anthony Rodriguez. Watching [Class of 2017 graduates] Graham Repp and Anthony Romano play linebacker last season was cool. I got to see how hard they worked at it.
M&G: What are some of responsibilities of a Loyola linebacker?
PD: You have to read your keys and know your position. You have to trust that the other players will do the same. You can’t worry about anybody else but you.
M&G: After losing a close one to Phillips in Week 1, how important was beating Bishop Amat last week in a game that wasn’t decided until late in the fourth quarter?
PD: That was a confidence-booster. We had forgotten about Phillips by the time that game started, but it was good to get that win.
M&G: With so many injuries, you’re one of several second-string defensive players who’s had to step up and contribute. Have you had a moment to reflect on all that’s happened this season?
PD: Not at all. It’s unfortunate Peter got injured. You never want to see that, and I feel bad for him. I was not expecting this at all.
Photo credit: Geoff Scott