Daniels uplifts, inspires as well as awes
Sheldon Vick | Special to the Times
Fike senior quarterback Demari Daniels walks onto the field before the Golden Demons’ home game against Hunt on Oct. 29. Daniels, named the Tom Ham Athlete of the Year as presented by The Wilson Times, proved to be as great of a teammate and a leader as an athlete mainly through his positive outlook and infectious optimism.
Now it's the “little” brother's turn.
Demari Daniels, the third son of Latonya and David Daniels to pass through the halls of Fike High, capped his multi-sport career with the Golden Demons as the Tom Ham Athlete of the Year Award as presented by The Wilson Times.
His legendary smile, never very far away, couldn't have been broader upon taking possession of “The Big Trophy” at Fike's Awards Day ceremony Thursday. Daniels staked his claim last fall with a superb season at quarterback in which he totaled more than 2, 600 yards of offense and 34 touchdowns. He followed that with steady performances in basketball and track and field and found time to help out as a pinch-runner and back-up outfielder for the baseball team.
“Just had to focus really,” he said. “I had scheduled time for school and to do my work at home and stuff - practices, games and all that. Just had to be determined to do it and that's what I wanted.”
Daniels was a central figure on each team, even baseball, which he played sparingly as he juggled it with track this season. But more than his sheer athletic ability, Daniels was consistently the player around whom the others would rally.
“I don't know, man, he's one of those kids you just love and the kids love him,” said Fike baseball coach Buck Edmondson. “They respect him, not just because of his athletic ability, but just the way he treats people. He's very consistent, always nice, always humble and he always has a smile on his face, but it's a genuine smile. It's not a put-on and he's genuine. I think that comes from his parents and I think it comes from probably his relationship with the Lord. He's just such a special kid.”
Daniels' smile and upbeat demeanor were infectious at Fike where he also excelled in music and was an honor-roll student.
“I like to bring a lot of positivity around,” Daniels said. “Good or bad, you know, just gotta have that positivity to make sure everything's always good and happy, joyful.”
But then, smiles and sports go hand-in-hand with the Daniels family. All four kids – 2016 graduate D.J., 2018 graduate Justin, 2022 graduate-to-be Demari and rising junior daughter, Jalia – have played or are playing multiple sports at Fike.
“Sports were big for me,” Demari said. “I started off when I was really little playing tee-ball baseball, basketball, football - played it all. And my whole fam was into sports. We were always outside in the backyard playing and just kept playing all throughout growing up and where I'm at right now.”
D.J. was a three-sport star at Fike and headed to James Madison University to play football before he was drafted by the Toronto Blue Jays and played four seasons of minor league baseball. Now he's playing football at Florida State.
“I had some big shoes to fill coming into high school,” Demari Daniels said. “My brother had some big milestones. He told me that I had some big shoes to fill and I tried my best to fill them.”
Demari had more than one pair of shoes to fill as his other brother, Justin, was a standout football and baseball player for the Demons. He's playing football at Shaw University now.
By the time Demari got to Fike in August of 2018, his reputation preceded him. Demons head football coach Tom Nelson recalled Latonya Daniels asking him to take care of Demari because he wasn't “like the other two.”
“I don't know, I think she meant that he might not be at that level of talent,” Nelson said. “And ironically, he probably he probably had the best career of all three of them.”
He'll certainly have bragging rights with “The Big Trophy” over D.J. and Justin, although Jalia still has a couple of years left at Fike. But in a family full of athletes, Demari Daniels' legacy at Fike is secure.
“I don't know anyone that doesn't like Demari and I don't know anyone that doesn't look up to Demari,” said Demons basketball coach Brent Secrest.
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