Spike Daniels

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Spike Daniels
refer to caption
Spike Daniels runs through a drill at the ISFL Combine ahead of the Season 31 Draft
No. 47 – Norfolk Seawolves
Position:Safety
Personal information
Born: (2023-09-18)September 18, 2023 (aged 28)
Grand Rapids, Michigan
Height:5 ft 10 in (1.78 m)
Weight:198 lb (90 kg)
Username:Michiganonymous
Career information
College:Northwestern
DSFL Draft:2045 / Round: 3 / Pick: 2
Career history
Roster status:Active

Spike Lewis Daniels (born September 18, 2023) is an American football safety for the Sarasota Sailfish in the ISFL. He played college football for Northwestern University. He was selected by the Norfolk Seawolves with the 2nd pick of the 3rd round in the 2045 DSFL Draft (18th overall). After his debut season in Norfolk he was selected by Sarasota with the 14th pick in the 1st round of the 2046 ISFL Draft.

Early years

Spike Daniels was born in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the middle child and only son of Calvin Daniels and Marietta Jones-Daniels. He has an older sister, Jessica, and a younger sister, Cassie. Both of the Daniels parents are former college athletes (Calvin a golfer and Marietta a softball catcher) and while growing up all three Daniels siblings played youth sports in the Grand Rapids area.

Spike's affinity for football was noted early on. When he was barely a year old, his parents noticed that he was captivated by football games more than anything else on television. According to them, he would glare angrily at the screen whenever an offense was moving the ball, but giggle and clap at great defensive plays, especially forced fumbles. Although it seemed he was destined for a future tackling people, for health and safety reasons Calvin and Marietta would not allow their son to play organized football until high school. Kept out of football, Daniels played soccer in his elementary and junior high years. He also became an avid chess player at a young age, and credits the game for developing the focus and mental processing skills that have helped him succeed on the gridiron.

As a high school freshman, Daniels seized the opportunity to finally try out his favorite sport, and upon joining the football team he distinguished himself almost immediately. He played on both sides of the ball during his high school career, spending most of his time at linebacker, but also seeing snaps at defensive back, running back, and receiver. What he lacked in raw physical traits, he made up for through stubborn determination and a seemingly intuitive understanding of the game. He became known for his fearlessly physical play, aggressive tackling, and a knack for always knowing where the ball was headed. Daniels missed the latter half of his junior season with a broken collarbone, but still graduated with the school record for career interceptions.

College career

Undersized for his primary position of linebacker, and with no particular outstanding athletic traits, Daniels was lightly recruited coming out of high school and received no FBS scholarship offers. However, at that time Daniels did not plan on a future in professional football and chose to focus on academics. On the strength of a 3.9 GPA and ACT score of 34, he received an academic scholarship to Northwestern, where he decided to try playing football as a walk-on. While a freshman, Daniels made the switch to playing safety full time when the coaching staff suggested it might be his most natural position. As a walk-on, he faced an uphill battle for practice reps and playing time, but by dedicating his gift of intense focus to a single position, he quickly improved his craft.

By the end of his sophomore year, he had shown enough in practice, on special teams, and in limited game time that the coaching staff elevated him to a starting role and made him a scholarship player for his junior and senior seasons. Daniels rewarded the coaching staff's confidence with a Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week performance in the first game of his junior season, recording eight tackles (two for loss) and a pick-six. This game was the beginning of his somewhat unusual trophy collection: he purchased the jersey of the opposing quarterback he had intercepted and nailed it to the wall of his dorm room. By the end of his Wildcat career, he had added 11 more jerseys for a total of 12, representing 8 career interceptions, 3 forced fumbles, and a blocked punt.

Daniels majored in Economics with a minor in Data Science, and originally came to Northwestern intending to enter the Master's of Science in Analytics program. Following breakout performances in his junior and senior seasons of football, he placed his graduate school plans on hold in favor of preparing for the DSFL Draft and chasing a chance to nail some professional jerseys to his trophy wall.

College statistics

Northwestern statistics
Season Games Tck TFL FF/FR Sck Int PD Sfty TD Blk P/XP/FG
Soph. 2 4 0 0/0 0 0 1 0 0 0/0/0
Jr. 13 39 2 1/1 0 3 14 0 2 0/0/0
Sr. 13 48 3 2/0 1 5 11 0 1 1/0/0
Career 28 91 5 3/1 1 8 26 0 3 1/0/0

Professional career

DSFL

Daniels recorded his first professional interception in Preseason Week 2 of DSFL Season 30, against the Dallas Birddogs. However, he chose not to nail up a Birddogs jersey, saying in a post-game interview, "It's always great to get a pick, but the preseason doesn't count."

Although his rookie season got off to a slow start, Daniels steadily improved throughout Season 30 and finished the season playing his best football. He recorded his first regular season interception against the Kansas City Coyotes in Norfolk's 30-23 Week 10 victory. Spike leaped in front of wide receiver Andy Fantuz at the 1-yard line and snatched quarterback Carter Knight's pass out of the air, preventing a Kansas City touchdown and returning the pick 45 yards to set up Norfolk with great field position following the turnover. (Daniels and Knight would later become teammates in Sarasota.) He followed up that performance with his first career multi-turnover game in Week 11, when Spike picked off star London Royals quarterback Dustin Parmelee twice, including a pick with under a minute to play that sealed Norfolk's 27-17 victory. In Week 13, he made 7 tackles in a 33-27 overtime loss to the Tijuana Luchadores, setting a new single-game personal best.

The Sarasota Sailfish sent Daniels back down to Norfolk for Season 31. Losing just one player to the ISFL that off-season, the Seawolves were experienced and hungry for victories after finishing 3-11 in Season 30. Daniels was voted defensive captain by his teammates and matured into the leadership role, notably rallying the team's spirits with a locker room speech after an unexpected 1-3 start to the season. After that, Norfolk won their next 3 games and 8 of the next 10 to finish 9-5, clinching their first playoff appearance since Season 26 and first winning record since Season 24. Unfortunately, Daniels and the Seawolves came up just short of their championship goals, as the season ended with a heart-breaking 37-34 overtime playoff loss to eventual champions the Dallas Birddogs.

ISFL

The Sarasota Sailfish drafted Spike with the 14th and final pick of the 1st round in the Season 31 ISFL Draft. A few days prior to the draft, Daniels' camp had taken the risky step of leaking to the media that Sarasota was his preferred destination. Despite draft buzz that Yellowknife and Austin were interested, Spike got his wish and beamed as he donned a Sailfish hat and held up the jersey of the defending Ultimus champions on draft night. Daniels cited as his primary motivation the opportunity to be mentored by one of his football idols, star Sailfish safety Cuco Clemente.

Season 32

Sarasota called Daniels up to the ISFL for Season 32, to replace the retired Brendan Lanier. The Sailfish ended up with no true strong safety on the roster, as Daniels and Clemente both preferred to play as roving free safeties, which provided Sarasota's defensive coordinator with a challenge to make the best use of both players and adequately counter opposing running games. Consequently the rookie made appearances in all 16 games, but was frequently benched in favor of playing an extra cornerback or linebacker. Daniels admitted in interviews that he sometimes found the reduced playing time frustrating, but always quickly added that he was happy to do whatever gave the team their best chance to win, and that his main goal for his rookie season was not to accumulate stats, but rather to learn as much as he possibly could. One teammate joked that they should call Daniels "The Remora" because he was always stuck to a Sailfish, watching veteran players and asking for pointers. None other than Cuco Clemente publicly praised the rookie's attitude and work ethic, which Spike later cited as the proudest moment of his rookie season.

Despite limited playing time, Spike did punctuate his rookie season with some noteworthy impact plays. In Week 1, he celebrated his ISFL debut with a punishing hit on Colorado Yeti wide receiver William Lim, forcing a fumble which he also recovered. The turnover came with the Sailfish down by two scores late in the 4th quarter, giving them a slim chance to win a game that had seemed out of reach, but ultimately they were unable to capitalize. In Week 2, Daniels continued his red-hot start, intercepting Baltimore Hawks QB Gimmy Jaroppolo Jr. in the 2nd quarter to make it two takeaways in two weeks, but the Sailfish would go on to lose that game as well. In search of a defensive spark, Sarasota's defensive coordinator experimented with placing Daniels closer to the line of scrimmage as a strong safety, which paid off most spectacularly in Week 8 against the San Jose SaberCats, as Spike blew by the right tackle to sack QB Panda McKyle, forcing a fumble that McKyle had to fall on, losing 7 yards on the play. Although the quick start to his rookie season showed flashes of what Spike might be capable of, he faded somewhat down the stretch and became a utility player for the rest of the season.

Season 33

Cuco Clemente left the Sailfish and unofficially retired after Season 32, so Spike opened Season 33 as one of Sarasota's two starting safeties alongside Peter Patterson. With the converted cornerback Patterson at his best in a deep free-safety role, the Sailfish found creative ways to take advantage of Spike's positional versatility, using him as a defensive rover who could line up on either side of the formation and at any level of the backfield. With Spike contributing in multiple ways, the Sailfish boasted the league's strongest defense; they allowed the fewest points, the second-fewest yards, and led the league in defensive scoring with 4 touchdowns and 2 safeties. The Sailfish used Spike's ability to move around the formation to great effect, frustrating opposing offenses with shifting coverages and cleverly-disguised blitz packages. Spike took full advantage of the opportunities he was offered. In pass coverage he intercepted 4 passes and broke up 10 more; he also saw situational use as a blitzer and pass rusher, recording 8 sacks.

Spike's seasonal highlights included a 50-yard interception return for a touchdown against the Hawks in Week 6, and receiving his first Defensive Player of the Game award in Week 16 against the Colorado Yeti. In that game he set a new personal best with 6 tackles and recorded a strip-sack of QB Mattathias Caliban on the final play of the regular season. Caliban would announce his retirement a few days later, prompting Daniels to quip "I only meant to end the game, not his whole career." Spike's individual season performance was recognized after the season when he was nominated for Safety of the Year by the ISFL Awards Committee and named a 1st-Team All-Pro by the Simulation Football Writer's Guild. The Sailfish finished 12-4, securing the NSFC's top seed and a first-round bye. They were Ultimus favorites entering the postseason, but the season came to a disappointing end with an NSFC Championship game loss to Baltimore.

Season 34

Following his All-Pro performance in Season 33, Spike was expected to emerge as a leader for a Sarasota defense expected to be among the league's best. Spike and Peter Patterson traded the free and strong safety roles back and forth throughout the year, and it was the veteran Patterson who did more with his opportunities. Spike proved to be a reliable defender against both the run and the pass, but couldn't quite achieve the standard he had set for himself after the previous year. Daniels and Patterson were one of the more dangerous safety combos in the league, and the Sailfish were statistically the league's 4th-best defense. Sarasota clinched the NSFC wildcard at 10-5-1, extending their league-record playoff streak, and entered the wildcard game as road favorites against the Berlin Fire Salamanders, a surprise 2-seed. Unfortunately it was to be heartbreak in eastern Germany for the Sailfish, as they were blown out, 35-10, in a game where Spike failed to even register a tackle.

Following the playoff loss, Spike was vocal about his disappointment with his own performance in the game and throughout the season. "Yeah, I'm upset," a visibly distressed Daniels told reporters after the playoff elimination. "Wouldn't you be upset? I know what I'm capable of and it's so disappointing that I just never got it together this season. I love this organization, I have amazing teammates, and it's really frustrating...sorry..." Gathering himself, he added, "Everyone on this team has worked so hard to get us to where we are. I really don't feel like I every showed up this year in the way that I needed to, and I just can't accept that. So we'll work hard this offseason, and we'll be back."

Season 35

After the retirement of Peter Patterson, Spike had a new partner in the backfield for Season 35, converted running back Rocky Rhoads. With the smaller but stronger Rhoads ideally suited to play strong safety, Spike devoted himself full time to his preferred free safety role. The change in role, combined with aggressive speed work in the preceding offseason, paid off with Spike recording 50 tackles, a career high. He added 14 pass breakups, also a career high, and 2nd-most for the season among all safeties. His 64.10% catch rate on 117 coverage targets was also among the statistical best at his position.

Spike and the Sailfish started the year well, going 5-2 in Weeks 1-7; Spike recorded his 100th career tackle in a Week 2 victory over the Chicago Butchers. Through the first seven weeks, the Sailfish averaged 32.1 points per game, but in an ominous sign of trouble to come, they also gave up 28.7 points per game. In Week 8 on the road against the 2-5 New York Silverbacks, Sarasota's defense was shockingly bad, forcing the offense to fight back heroically from deficits of 0-21, 14-24, and 28-38. Rookie K Swantavius King hit a 57-yard field goal to force overtime at 45-45, but the Sailfish defense collapsed yet again, and Sarasota lost in overtime 52-48, the highest point total in league history. The Sailfish responded to that bitter disappointment against the Silverbacks with their best game of the season in Week 9, a 37-13 victory over the 7-1 Honolulu Hahalua. Spike recorded his 10th career interception in the first quarter of the win.

After beating Honolulu however, it was all downhill for Sarasota, who went 1-7 in the last half of the season, with the lone win coming against the league-worst Yeti. The miserable stretch seemed almost supernaturally-cursed at times, such as when the Sailfish lost 3 of 4 games by identical 30-27 scores in Weeks 11-14. Despite their struggles, incredible parity in the NSFC kept Sarasota in playoff contention until the very end. Needing a road win against the Orange Country Otters to stay in the playoff picture, Sarasota led 24-0 at halftime and 31-3 with 17 minutes left in the game, but in those final 17 minutes, the Sailfish would put on one of the worst defensive performances in league history. The Sailfish allowed the Otters to score 35 unanswered points, and a frantic final drive by Sarasota stalled at midfield. Sarasota lost 38-31, bringing their historic streak of playoff appearances to an end.

A stunned, unmotivated squad barely showed up against the Philadelphia Liberty in Week 16, and the result of the final game was a 36-10 loss, Sarasota's lowest point total and worst margin of defeat all season. Spike Daniels was dejected but philosophical following the final game. "I can't think of a single thing that went right for us this year. But then obviously I know there's about a million different things I should have done better too. We've got a championship-caliber roster, so it really stinks to be in this place again. Hopefully this offseason we can regroup and get back to where we need to be. Maybe next year we can catch a few of those breaks we missed out on this season."

Professional statistics

DSFL

DSFL Career
Team DSFL Season Games Tck TFL FF/FR Sck Int PD Sfty TD Blk P/XP/FG
Norfolk Seawolves 30 14 50 0 0/0 0 4 11 0 0 0/0/0
Norfolk Seawolves 31 14 53 0 1/1 1 2 7 0 0 0/0/0
DSFL Career 28 103 0 1/1 1 6 18 0 0 0/0/0

ISFL

S31 ISFL Draft Combine
height weight Wonderlic 40 shuttle 3-cone vertical broad jump bench press
5' 10.1" 205 lbs. 40 4.52 4.59 7.58 25.3" 112.3" 18
ISFL Career
Team ISFL Season Games Starts Tck TFL FF/FR Sck Int PD Sfty TD Blk P/XP/FG
Sarasota Sailfish 32 16 6 14 0 2/1 2 1 4 0 0 0/0/0
Sarasota Sailfish 33 16 16 41 0 1/1 8 4 10 0 1 0/0/0
Sarasota Sailfish 34 16 16 38 1 0/0 4 3 7 0 0 0/0/0
Sarasota Sailfish 35 16 16 50 0 0/0 0 2 14 0 0 0/0/0
ISFL Career 64 54 143 1 3/2 14 10 35 0 1 0/0/0

Achievements and records

College

Big Ten Defensive Player of the Week: 3 times

  • 2043 Season, Week 1
  • 2044 Season, Week 3
  • 2044 Season, Week 7

All-Big Ten Team: twice

  • 2043 2nd Team
  • 2044 1st Team

Academic All-American: 2043, 2044

Consensus 1st Team All-American: 2044

Burlsworth Trophy (most outstanding former walk-on): Winner, 2044

Jim Thorphe Award (top college defensive back): Finalist, 2044

William V. Campbell Trophy (the "academic Heisman"): Finalist, 2044

DSFL

DSFL Safety of the Year:

  • Nominated: Season 30, Season 31

DSFL Pro Bowl

  • Season 30, Season 31

ISFL

ISFL Safety of the Year

  • Nominated: Season 33

ISFL All-Pro Team

  • 1st Team: Season 33

ISFL Pro Bowl

  • Season 33

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