O’Leary: Daniels has an unlikely homecoming in Toronto

CFL

He’s a Chicago-born, Philly-raised receiver that has played all of his Canadian football in Alberta. On Tuesday, DaVaris Daniels signed with the Toronto Argonauts, making for a very unlikely homecoming.

“It came pretty easy to me. It was a pretty easy decision,” Daniels said from Chicago, shortly after his two-year deal with the Argos was announced.

“I’ve got a lot of people that I know going this route and it’s close to home, so it (worked) for me.”

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Heading into his fifth season in the CFL, Daniels is hoping his move east will bring his life and his football career together. On the field, the lure of the Argos started with head coach Ryan Dinwiddie, whom Daniels got to know from their three years in Calgary, where Dinwiddie was the Stamps’ quarterbacks coach. While he was in Calgary, he played alongside national receiver Juwan Brescacin. After moving to Edmonton for the 2019 season, Daniels worked in the Esks’ receiving corps with national Natey Adjei. All three have signed with the Argos.

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Finding out this past week that Matt Nichols was coming in at quarterback helped make the situation more appealing to Daniels.

“For someone like me that likes to stretch the field and make plays down the field, you have to have a worthy quarterback there that can get the ball down the field,” he said of Nichols.

“He’s a quarterback that has proven that he can win games. Once they signed Matt, it made the decision that much easier for me. I’m a big fan of his game and I’m excited to see what we can do together.”

“Hearing they were shooting for Juwan and Natey, guys I’d played with in the past, it was kind of a no-brainer for me. Those guys are high-calibre guys and they do a lot for the team. They’re unselfish and I think that’s what every team needs for a run at the championship.”

Off the field, Daniels should feel very comfortable in Toronto. His girlfriend is from Ontario and the couple recently had a son together. The move will keep them close to her family and will have Daniels’ family much closer.

“I grew up in Chicago but my family moved to Philadelphia when my dad (Phillip) started coaching with the Eagles,” Daniels said.

“It’s a little bit shorter of a flight, a little bit cheaper of a flight than flying into Calgary or Edmonton. It makes that whole thing so much easier to get them out to games. If you know my mom, she wants to be at every one of them. It’s nice to have that in your corner.”

 

He’s also hoping that he can give his growing family something to see at Argos games this year. Daniels’ most productive season in the league was his rookie year in 2016, when he hit 885 yards in just 11 games played. He’s been right around the 740 yard-mark the last three seasons, while never playing more than 13 games.

Coming off of consecutive four-win seasons, the Argos are a team that’s undergoing tremendous change. With the departure of S.J. Green and (as of Tuesday night) Derel Walker and Armanti Edwards remaining free agents, Daniels is the biggest name receiver to join the team. He’s been surrounded by talented veteran receivers in his time with the Albertan teams. Toronto could be his best chance to become a team’s premier receiver.

“Just to have that opportunity to be somewhat of a focal point,” Daniels said.

“I don’t have to be a No. 1. I don’t care if I’m a No. 2. It’s about winning. Coach Dinwiddie and that offensive staff put us in a pretty good position to do that. That was the main thing I was focused on, rather than being a focal point of the offence.”

Dinwiddie’s hire as a head coach struck many as a bold move by the Argos. His name had come up as a possible offensive coordinator, but in Toronto, they saw someone who they thought would quickly make the leap from coordinator to the head role in the immediate future. Having spent those three years with Dinwiddie in Calgary, Daniels saw the same.

“He’s a smart coach,” Daniels said.

“He loves to take advantage of situations. he’s an offensive-minded guy, he listens to his players, I’d say he’s a players’ coach. He’s someone that’s going to work hard for you, outside of the football field and the film room, in meeting rooms, he’s making sure everyone’s on the same page, making sure everyone has things in common. He holds everyone accountable and he’s going to work very hard at his job. You can’t ask for much more from a head coach.”

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