If you’ve ever met Donta Daniel, you would never believe he’s never won a high school football game.
Every time I see him at the Central Coosa fieldhouse or even when I’m covering another sporting event for the Cougars, he’s polite, mature and happy-go-lucky. He’s always one of the first to say, “Hey, Miss Liz, how you doin’?”
Daniel always seems to be somewhere around the athletic program at Coosa. I’m told he’s the first one in the weight room and the last one out of it, and the Cougars’ original starting quarterback, Ryan Payne, said Daniel was great about staying with him for hours during the summer throwing the ball and helping him learn techniques.
“He’s a man,” Coosa coach Brett Thomas said recently. “He’s a man’s man. He has an ‘S’ on his chest, a cape on his back. He is Superman.”
Daniel is exactly what you want out of a student-athlete. He’s strong and fast. What he lacks with his size, he makes up for with his heart. And most importantly, he’s a leader and he’s dedicated to the Cougars even though he’s never been rewarded with a victory.
I’ve heard rumblings I can neither confirm nor deny, he’s been “recruited” by other high schools. And Daniel certainly is the type of guy who would start at running back for any team in our coverage area and plenty of teams outside it. But those rumors I heard all ended the same way: Daniel wanted to finish what he started at Central Coosa.
And by “finish what he started,” I mean basically do everything for the Cougars.
I always make sure I get to see each of our local teams at least once throughout the season. So even though it meant missing Benjamin Russell’s homecoming game last week — which ended up being a thriller from start to finish (mostly finish) — I needed to see the Cougars play.
The game played out just like Thomas has been telling me all year it would. Central Coosa starts off OK — fairly strong even — then teams figure out their line is way below par, to put it nicely, and they start to run wild. That’s exactly what happened against Horseshoe Bend.
But if there’s one thing the Cougars can hang their hats on, it’s Daniel.
He is a true jack of all trades.
Daniel is now the starting quarterback, the person who carries the ball 80% of the time, the punter, the punt and kickoff returner and a starting defensive back. He quite literally never comes off the field.
Last week, Daniel went down with a concussion midway through the second quarter and any possible thought of a comeback flew out the window for the Cougars. Daniel came back for one play in the third quarter even though he wasn’t allowed because he was under concussion protocol.
Daniel unintentionally went back into the game unaware he wasn’t supposed to be playing. Someone asked me earlier this week if I thought that was done intentionally.
If anything, I can say for sure, it definitely wasn’t malicious. The game was out of hand by then and there was no chance of a Coosa comeback. But Daniel just wants to play. He wants to don the Cougars’ blue and white and he wants to make a difference for his team.
So intentional? Maybe. Malicious? Never. I don’t think that kid has a malicious bone in his body.
Looking at the remainder of Coosa’s schedule, it seems fairly possible the Cougars will go winless for the third straight season. But there are a few rays of hope in there — Vincent and Talladega County Central were both winless prior to Friday night’s games.
And if there’s anyone who truly deserves a win, it’s Donta Daniel.