Title or bust? End the drought? No amount of pressure will faze Georgia QB JT Daniels
HOOVER, Ala. – He strolled to the podium at SEC Media Days, a movie script 4 years running in his wake and championship expectations in his future.
After all he has been through, after taking life’s body blows one after the other, the one piece of serenity Georgia quarterback JT Daniels still holds close despite the recent uncertainty in his life is the one thing that has guided him since he was a boy.
Ceteris paribus, or “all things being equal.”
Because all things being equal, those with the most information win. Those who work the hardest win.
Those who never give up or give in win.
The problem over the past 4 years: Not everything has been equal.
“My life of late,” Daniels says, “probably has been a little different than most.”
Not everyone sets himself up to reclassify and graduate high school a full year early like Daniels, finishing among the top of his class at prestigious Mater Dei High in suburban Los Angeles – after becoming the first student in school history to complete the course load of his junior and senior years in one calendar year so he could graduate early and enroll at USC.
Not everyone arrives at USC as an 18-year-old true freshman and wins the starting quarterback job.
Not everyone is then set up for a big jump in his sophomore season and blows out his knee in Game 1.
Not everyone then gets Wally Pipped by another freshman quarterback, Kedon Slovis, whose huge season forced Daniels to find another home.
Not everyone transfers to the meatgrinder SEC and one of its top two programs, then can’t get healthy (or can’t convince the staff he’s healthy, depending on who and what you believe) and has to watch his new team struggle on offense and waste the best defense in college football.
Not everyone gets another chance to make it right.
After four impressive games to finish last season, JT Daniels is the talk of the SEC heading into the 2021 season. Georgia, which has done nearly everything right under coach Kirby Smart except figure out the quarterback spot, has an elite quarterback now.
To which Daniels responds, “It’s cool when they say you’re good. It’s cool when they say you suck.”
Translation: After the past 4 years, he’s taking nothing for granted.
“A crazy ride,” Daniels said. “I’m so grateful for what I have and to be in this situation.”
Before this wild ride began 4 years ago, before he started the process of playing a season that could translate into a national title and first-round selection in the 2022 NFL Draft, Daniels embraced Buddhism during his last year of high school. The critical tenet of the religion is its simplicity, and little value on earthly possessions.
“It’s not where you own nothing,” Daniels said. “It’s where nothing owns you.”
Not the highs and lows of college football, not an injury, and certainly not some lugnut on social media calling you out.
This is the Renaissance Man who can lead Georgia to its first national championship since 1980.
“JT is like no other guy I’ve ever met,” Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis said. “So chill, so real. You want to be around guys like that. I’m not even talking about football.”
But football is where Daniels will make his mark.
The same player who holds the key to Georgia’s championship hopes is the same 6-year-old boy who used to watch Jon Gruden break down NFL game tape on television, and then play out similar scenarios on Xbox.
The same player who was calling plays from the field in a tempo offense as a junior in high school.
The same player who has carried small notebooks everywhere he goes since he was in middle school. You name it, it’s in there – and it’s not all football.
You learn, you adapt, you adjust.
Because all things being equal, he with the most information wins.
Instead of someone else writing the ending to his movie script of a life the past 4 years, he’ll go make it happen himself.
“I don’t like surprises,” Daniels says.
Even those that end with championships.