Not many people expected B.J. Daniels to be drafted to the NFL.
But on a Saturday, in late April, former USF quarterback Daniels was in his Tallahassee home with his family when he received a phone call.
He walked into another room, and on the other end of the call was head coach of the San Francisco 49ers Jim Harbaugh, calling to tell him that they were using their seventh round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft on him.
But before he could share the news, tears and all, his family was already screaming from the living room as they saw the name “B.J. Daniels” flash across the screen as he was drafted.
“It’s one of those things I’ll never forget,” Daniels said.
The memories keep coming for Daniels, who in the second week of preseason against the Kansas City Chiefs, threw a game winning touchdown pass with two minutes to go, giving the 49ers their first win of the preseason, also making it the first touchdown of their preseason.
When Daniels, sporting the No. 5 jersey, made his debut at Arrowhead Stadium on Aug. 16, it wasn’t until quarterbacks Colt McCoy and Scott Tolzien went back and forth playing behind center that he came off the sidelines.
McCoy, who was at second string throughout training camp, completed 3-of-6 passes with an interception. Tolzien, who on his first play fumbled a snap, ended his day at 3-of-8 for 30 yards.
After throwing two incomplete passes to open his debut, Daniels’ start wasn’t going as planned. That’s when, on the next series, he managed to string together a drive that now has people saying he is a true contender for the second string spot behind Colin Kaepernick.
Throwing five straight completions for 58 yards, Daniels capped off his drive with one last pass – a fade route to rookie wide receiver Chuck Jacobs, who was heavily covered in the end zone down the left sideline when Daniels’ pass floated into his arms for the 14-yard touchdown.
Daniels also saw some action in the Sunday night game against the Minnesota Vikings where he completed two of his three passes for 30 yards, gaining another 20 yards after a long run.
“As many hours and hard work I put in, things are finally coming together for me offensively and mentally,” Daniels said.
Some USF students didn’t even think Daniels would get a shot in the NFL come draft day; now in the midst of his preseason success, his name is becoming more known. According to his former target on the field, USF junior wide receiver Andre Davis, the success was to be expected.
“I had a feeling it was coming,” Davis said. “He’s been doing stuff like that his whole time (at USF), so it’s not a surprise to me – he deserves it.”
Davis even sent a text to Daniels after the game to congratulate him on the touchdown. Once the go-to receiver for Daniels, Davis had firsthand experience, being led by him in the huddle, and said he knows what Daniels is capable of as a leader.
“I always knew B.J. was a great quarterback and an awesome leader,” Davis said. “For him to lead them (49ers) on that last drive was big, I’m proud of him.”
While his first touchdown in his debut will certainly be a moment that Daniels will never forget, it’s what he sees before each game that makes him realize his accomplishment – something that every NFL locker room has.
“I’ve always dreamed about being a professional,” Daniels said. “For me to come into the locker room and see my last name on the back of an NFL jersey is a great feeling and something I’ll always cherish.”
With Daniels making his dream come true, it’s the little coincidences that make things come full circle.
At USF, when Daniels was balancing classes and being an athlete, he also set aside time to join a fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi.
After flying out to the west coast, Daniels found out a few teammates were also members.
Both Kaepernick and cornerback Nnamdi Asomugha are members of Kappa Alpha Psi. Daniels said he’s been bonding with Kaepernick over the brotherhood through football.
“It’s just something you kind of know,” Daniels said. “Colin has been encouraging and helping me out.”
As coincidental as that may be, Daniels also found familiarity among the 49ers staff in linebackers coach and former USF coach Jim Leavitt, who recruited Daniels out of high school and gave Daniels his first shot at quarterback.
Now at practice, Daniels gets to see his once head coach with a
different set of eyes.
“Coach Leavitt is just a great guy and I’m always forever grateful to him giving me the opportunity in college,” Daniels said. “Seeing him on the field was really cool, the only difference now is that I’m going against his guys at practice.”
Leavitt was the start of Daniels’ career at USF, the school where he made a name for himself as he entered as an 18-year-old freshman, eventually becoming second all-time in total offense, third all-time in both completions and passing yards, first all-time in rushing touchdowns and more.
Though in spite of his success at USF, before the draft, Daniels wasn’t as confident as some may think. After a season-ending injury during his senior year, his draft stock wasn’t looking positive. Now, with the opportunity he’s been given, Daniels said he’s ready to work and challenge himself.
“I was feeling kind of down after I broke my ankle, but I just continued to work hard and fortunately I was drafted and became a part of this great team,” Daniels said.
Daniels still has a preseason to finish, and another shot to play – Thursday at 7 p.m. against the San Diego Chargers. Though it’s only preseason, the mindset for Daniels and the team is clear.
“It’s a family atmosphere here, but at the same time, it’s a business and they’re all about getting back to the Super Bowl,” he said.