When Cam McDaniel returns home this weekend he will sit in the stands at Coppell High School, his alma mater, and watch as it faces one of its biggest rivals in what amounts to a clash of Texas football titans.
This time last year McDaniel was leading a vaunted Coppell offensive attack. Now the freshman Notre Dame running back will watch his younger brother, Gavin, a sophomore.
“He’s an absolutely phenomenal athlete,” McDaniel said. “Love him to death and he works hard. That’s the key. I just told him if he keeps working hard and he does his thing on the field like he always does it’s gonna launch him into wherever he wants to go.”
If his brother is seeking any advice, McDaniel will have more experience to draw upon after the last couple weeks.
Coming into the season as one of four running backs on the roster, McDaniel has been on the verge of playing time since he set foot on campus in June and suited up for a fall camp a couple months later.
Upperclassmen Cierre Wood and Jonas Gray have teamed up for one of the nation’s top rushing attacks while McDaniel and George Atkinson III have bided their time. Atkinson had been getting work on special teams all season, including a kickoff return for a touchdown against Michigan State. McDaniel made his debut against Purdue.
Getting work on special teams units was a logical first step for McDaniel and one he envisioned earlier in the school year.
“Special teams is a huge deal,” McDaniel said. “Especially for a freshman. If you want to get in and you want to play then special teams is an opportunity to do that. I approached the coaches from the very beginning and said, ‘You know, I’m gonna do whatever I can to get on the field. I want to contribute and I want to make an impact. If ST is the way to do that then I would love to do it on the ST and I’m gonna give you everything I have.’”
McDaniel proved his worth against Air Force by winning the team’s special teams player of the week award. He also got the chance to do a little bit more than run down on kickoff coverage.
After having one carry for a single yard against Purdue, McDaniel carried the ball twice for eight yards against Air Force. His longest attempt actually netted 12 yards and marked the high water point of his college career.
Not a bad outing for the first time at Notre Dame Stadium.
“It was a blast just being out there on the field,” McDaniel said. “It’s such an honor when it comes to just being able to walk down that tunnel and all the history that’s gone through there; just the tradition and everything about Notre Dame football. Then getting out there on that field and actually getting the ball and being able to contribute like that is a phenomenal experience.”
“I’m here to contribute in whatever way I can. Cierre and Jonas are doing a phenomenal job this year. We have one of the best running attacks in the nation and maybe one of the best in the history of Notre Dame football. I’m excited to see those guys in action and see what they’re doing this year. As long they’re trucking it I’m just here to contribute in whatever way I can and be part of that.
Those will be the stories McDaniel carries home with him to impart on his younger brother and rest of his family. Between that and some much needed food it will be a productive bye week before diving into preparation for USC.
“That’ll definitely be fun and just get back in the Texas atmosphere a little bit,” McDaniel said. “I’ll get some Mexican food. I’m excited about that.”