Dan Marino, Fran Tarkenton, Warren Moon and Jim Kelly all share the same unshakable designation as being among the best quarterbacks to never win a Super Bowl.
It’s far too soon to tell whether B.J. Daniels will join those Hall of Famers as one of the NFL’s all-time greats, but in his second year in the league, Daniels can at least take comfort in knowing he’s already got the latter part taken care of — and could add another ring to his hand next Sunday before he takes a snap as a pro.
Taken out of the University of South Florida in the seventh round of the 2013 draft by San Francisco, Daniels has had what some might call a blessed first two years in the NFL. After being released by the Niners in October of his rookie year, he was scooped up by Seattle almost immediately and has been a member of the Seahawks’ quarterback rotation along with Russell Wilson and Tarvaris Jackson since.
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He’s yet to play in a game, and generally doesn’t dress out – he was active for one game last season, a road win in Atlanta, where the Tallahassee, Fla., native’s parents were in attendance — but he’s been a practice squad stud, and last week, coach Pete Carroll moved the dynamic Daniels to the 53-man roster after Paul Richardson tore his ACL in Seattle’s divisional round win over Carolina.
It was a decision, Carroll said, meant to reward Daniels for "competing his butt off."
"He’s going to help us in a number of spots," Carroll told the Seattle Post-Intelligencer before the Seahawks’ win over Green Bay in the NFC Championship, for which Daniels was inactive.
"Of course he’s a third quarterback, but we’ll see this week how he works to fit in on special teams. He’s a backup returner for us, he can play running back and wide receiver as well. He’s been doing that all year, so he’s a very versatile guy for us to bring to life right now."
So Daniels can play anywhere, and it’s possible we may see him take his first career snaps somewhere other than quarterback against the Patriots, but ultimately, he sees himself as a quarterback, and he’s committed himself to being totally ready for the opportunity to play, should it present itself – regardless of where and when it ends up happening.
He already learned the value in that attitude once at USF, when he had to make his first career start as a redshirt freshman on the road against Florida State in place of injured senior Matt Grothe. The Bulls beat the 17th-ranked Seminoles in Tallahassee and Daniels would go on to hold the starting job for the next three and a half seasons, until a broken left ankle ended his college career in November of his senior year.
Of course, Daniels is by no means keeping his fingers crossed for Wilson or Jackson to go down with a Grothe-like injury, but if his number is called, he takes comfort in knowing that he won’t be caught off-guard.
"I’ve always gone through life trying to prepare myself as if I was the guy, so therefore, when the opportunity came, I would always be ready," Daniels told FOX Sports in a phone interview this week.
"I’m just excited for that day to come. I’ve had a chance to play in two preseasons, and thankfully, I’ve had no interceptions and six or seven touchdowns passing. I’m enjoying it, and I will be prepared and whenever God is able to give me that opportunity, I’m pretty sure it’ll be the right time."
Often, Daniels says, fans have a misconception of what it means to be a practice squad player in the NFL — with many making the claim that guys like Daniels aren’t deserving of their Super Bowl bling – but Daniels says that couldn’t be farther from the truth. He says he works just as hard as anyone to be up to speed for game day, whether he ever sees the field or not, and that last year’s ring (which is securely stashed at his folks’ house) was well-earned.
"I still prepare myself as if I’m the guy," Daniels said. "I have to go to every single meeting, every single walkthrough, every practice. People kind of treat you like the redheaded stepchild when it’s not like that at all — or (they) even (treat you like) a walk-on or a redshirt guy in college. It’s not necessarily the same thing.
"The knowledge of the game plan, what scheme we’re going into every week – I’m expected to know and I’m expected to be able to master it and run the offense, being in this position. For me, it’s more about helping the Seahawks win and preparing for each team every week than me necessarily trying to go after someone else’s position."
And make no mistake, Daniels is being tested in practice, even if you can’t find him in the box score on Sundays.
"With two great organizations like San Francisco and Seattle, I think I’ve played against the top two defenses in the league the last two years every single day," Daniels said.
I’ve always gone through life trying to prepare myself as if I was the guy, so therefore, when the opportunity came, I would always be ready.
"I play against Hall of Fame players in Earl Thomas and Richard Sherman, and our defensive line and Kam Chancellor. Then you go back to San Francisco, there’s NaVorro Bowman and Patrick Willis and Donte Whitner and Nnamdi Asomugha. Those are the guys I’m practicing against every day. I’m pretty sure there’s not an all-star team that has the defense like the ones I just mentioned that I’ve played against."
So it goes without saying that when the ultimate reward for that dedication is a Super Bowl ring or two – well, that certainly makes the effort worth it, whether he’s wearing a helmet and holding a football at the big game or wearing a sweater and holding a clipboard on the sideline.
"It was cool, one of those things you always dream of," Daniels said of last year’s Super Bowl win over Denver at MetLife Stadium. "I’d never had the opportunity to win any state championships in high school, and in college, I never won our conference, so to be able to say that the first real championship that I was a part of happened to be the Super Bowl is kind of hard to believe."
Even so, Daniels is going to face doubters and hecklers. It’s the nature of walking the thin line between the active roster and the practice squad, giving people the perception that you’re not any good. But Daniels isn’t the type to let those thoughts enter into his mind and impact the way he prepares throughout the week.
"I don’t necessarily get up in arms about it, because, to be quite honest, it’s never something that I felt the need to explain," Daniels said. "I’m thankful and blessed to be in the NFL, and I’m pretty sure that whatever my job was to help out the Seahawks – whether it’s a practice player, a manager or the person outside helping keep the parking lots clean – I’m still thankful to be a part of an organization as great as the Seahawks are.
With two great organizations like San Francisco and Seattle, I think I’ve played against the top two defenses in the league the last two years every single day.
"I don’t get too concerned with it. It’s not that big of a deal, and I just humbly say I’m thankful to be in the position I’m in."
And while it’s perhaps more likely that Daniels career arc pans out more like those of Jason Garrett or Marc Wilson or Cliff Stoudt – guys who claimed multiple rings from the sidelines – than those of ringless legends like Moon and Marino, Daniels knows he’s still in no position to complain either way
"I understand my role completely here, and that’s what I think makes it so enjoyable," Daniels said. "Not trying to compare myself to anyone, but look at a guy that we just played last Sunday, Aaron Rodgers. It took him (four) years to even have an active starting role, even being the active, dynamic quarterback he is today. As a competitor, of course you want to be on the field, but at the same time, I’ve been a part of two great organizations, I’ve got a Super Bowl ring, going for number two, and I’ve learned so much.
"Laying on the operating table (after breaking my ankle at USF), I never would have thought that, fast forward, I’d have an opportunity to have two Super Bowl rings my first two years in the NFL," Daniels continued. "I mean, that’s an amazing story for me to be able to tell my children when I get older. … But I don’t want to look ahead, and I know anything can happen. I’m pretty sure Green Bay thought they’d be in this position today, so I’m not trying to look too far past, thinking about what it would be like to have two (rings). I just know we need to prepare for the next game."