From Chicago to Super Bowl Champs: Daniels, Schofield celebrate 1st title with Broncos
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – Just a few days earlier in his team’s hotel, faced with cameras and microphones from around the country, he reflected on a simple moment early his in football career in the suburbs of Chicago.
Wednesday was national signing day as high school players from around the country pick their college of choice. More and more these are commitments are becoming a sideshow with athletes coming up with elaborate ways to tell the world their next destination.
For Owen Daniels, it was much simpler on his day back at Naperville Central High School in 2001.
“I had a little table, probably half the size of this,” said the Broncos receiver, referencing the table he was at while talking to the media last Wednesday. “No cloth or anything. There might have been five people there.”
Such a humble beginning was on Daniels mind that day, but a few days later all of the work since then was paid off on football’s grandest stage.
Drenched in a sea of confetti flying around Levi’s Stadium, the Naperville native was one of the many on the Broncos’ team that celebrated the franchise’s third Super Bowl victory on Sunday evening. The 24-10 triumph over the Panthers gave Daniels his first Super Bowl championship of his ten-year career.
“I’m trying to figure it out right now,” said Daniels when asked about the significance of the moment. “I’m trying to figure this whole thing out. Just how I feel. I think I’m just kind of a little bit in shock, honestly. I had a ton of confidence all day that we could get it done and I wasn’t worried about what could have been in years past, 100 percent focused on what we were doing at the time and being in the moment.
“I’m just so happy right now. I’m just so happy that I decided to continue to play football. This is the only reason I’m still playing, is to have this opportunity today. It means everything.”
A moment like this would have seemed far-fetched not only for the young receiver sitting at the table at Naperville Central but also the veteran just a few years ago. He was on the Texans in 2012 when it appeared it may finally be their time to make a run to the Super Bowl after winning the AFC South for a second-straight season. But Daniels’ team lost in the Divisional Playoffs and then were out of the postseason the next year as the Texans finished behind the Colts in the division.
But his coach Gary Kubiak, who was fired in Houston in 2014, brought Daniels along for an interesting ride to the top. When Kubiak became offensive coordinator for the Ravens he brought Daniels with him and he did the same when getting the head coaching position for the Broncos.
Daniels rewarded Kubiak for that faith by playing in all 16 regular season games and making 46 catches. In the AFC Championship Daniels scored the Broncos’ first and only touchdowns of the game in a victory over the Patriots.
While he had just one reception, the first of the game, on Sunday, Daniels was grateful to share in the moment with the coach who believed in him.
“It’s 10 years of grinding in this league. I’ve followed (Head Coach Gary Kubiak) Kub everywhere that he’s been. Eight years together in Houston and a year together last year in Baltimore, and I followed him here for this reason,” said Daniels when asked about the win. “I know that he knows what it takes to get it done. He’s done it before.
“I respect him, I trust him and I looked at the team we had here, that Denver had, and thought, ‘Hey, this could be it.’ So, to be standing alone at the top, it means everything.”
Yet he’s not the only one on the Broncos with Chicago ties to do so. Orland Park native and former Sandburg High School star Michael Schofield started at tackle for the Broncos on Sunday night and helped protect Peyton Manning in what could be the legendary quarterback’s final game in the NFL.
The victory comes in Schofield’s second season in the NFL with the Broncos. He was drafted by the team out of Michigan in the third round of the 2014 draft.
On Twitter, Schofield had a simple response to the career achievement.
His girlfriend Kendall Coyne posted this picture of her and Schofield on the field following the game.
Quite an evening for the Chicago area natives. Both have come a long way since putting their line on a piece of paper in high school.