Owen Daniels, the Denver Broncos’ new tight end, sat down with Robin Carlin to talk about working with Peyton Manning, preparing for the season and working for Gary Kubiak.
So what do you like about Denver thus far?
It’s obviously a great situation for me coming here and following (Gary Kubiak). It’s a great organization and a really successful team in the past. The city of Denver is great, too – so far, I’m loving it.
Some people may not know, but you studied meteorology in college and even delivered the weather on local news a few times. What do you make of the weather here so far? You didn’t think you were signing up for this did you?
I like it when the weather changes and you don’t know what to really expect every day. It was pretty rainy for the first month or so that I was here and I think that was a little out of the ordinary. But I think we (used) up most of our cloudy days so it should be sunny everyday here on out, right? It’s supposed to be 300 days of sunshine from what I have heard.
Would you say you’re an “outdoorsy” type? Any chance to go exploring here yet?
Not too much, I wouldn’t consider myself an outdoorsman. Outside stuff for me is playing golf. I’m not a huge hunter – I have gone a few times. I can’t ski and I am not technically allowed to – I’ve waited 32 years; I can wait a few more years. But I am mostly looking forward to exploring the state.
Now that you’ve settled in and have a few OTAs under your belt, do you feel more like the “new guy” or more like “the veteran”? You’re new to the team, but very familiar with Gary Kubiak’s system.
I’m getting more comfortable with what’s going on, getting to know guys, knowing my way around the facility and getting my routine down. That always takes time. It’s nice that I already know the coaches and a few guys that I have played with in the past. So having some familiar faces always helps the transition a little bit. I’m feeling pretty good now. I’m feeling like I am part of the team. I think that will just build with time here.
What pressure comes with being team’s most prominent offseason signing?
I don’t even look at it like that. I’m just trying to keep doing what I have been doing and play as well as I can play. I’ve tried my whole career to be a consistent player and help out any way I can – try to stay on the field and be a guy that Number 18 can count on. Whether I was the biggest signing or the most overlooked signing, it doesn’t really matter to me. I am going out there to play my best ball.
In Denver, we all know Gary Kubiak as a great coordinator and our former backup quarterback. But you know him very well – you’ve never “not” played on a Gary Kubiak team. What’s something about him – in a head-coaching role – that most people probably don’t know?
I got to experience Gary Kubiak as a coordinator last year and other years as a head coach, so I have seen him in both situations. He was kind of labeled as a very player-friendly coach because he had played for so long. He’s very mild mannered on the sideline – that’s what people think of him as a person. But, man, in the meetings and on the practice field, his demeanor is totally different than on the sideline on game day. I think he is trying to keep it together and handle everything – he’s got a lot going on – but if things aren’t going the way he wants them to go in practice, he lets you know. He will let you know in the meeting the next day. He expects a lot and he challenges us. So, I think what people don’t get to really see is how hard he pushes us.
If Gary Kubiak isn’t the head coach here, are you here?
That’s tough. It was a great situation for me to come here. A lot of factors aligned and it was pretty much a no-brainer for me. There’s that relationship and I am very loyal to coach Kubiak. It would have been a tougher decision for sure if he hadn’t have come to Denver
People make a lot of blending Kubiak’s offensive system with the way Peyton Manning has traditionally played. Do you think this is overblown? Isn’t it a great coach and a great quarterback, and hey, what could be better than that?
I think people are wanting it to be a difficult transition for us. That’s what people are hoping for. But Coach Kub has a great offensive mind; Peyton is a great offensive mind and they’re both unselfish. It seems like they’ve been working well together and have a good mesh of what Peyton likes to do in the past and what we’ve done well in the past. We’re just going to put it all in and do what we do best.
What was the Duke experience like? How helpful is it to get to spend that time with Peyton Manning – both from a football perspective and from the personal side as well?
The Duke experience was quite the experience – Peyton grinded us pretty hard. I didn’t know what to expect. I had been working out, so I felt pretty good about myself in terms of going there. But I hadn’t run any routes since my last game – I was just lifting weights and getting into shape. It was two-a-days with film and lifting – he really got it out of us those couple of days. It was great to get that initial meeting and kind of feel each other out in terms of how I run routes and where he expects me to do. It’s always good to get that little bit of work in, in the off-season. But I didn’t know what to expect and I will be prepared next year. We had some nice dinners. Peyton’s got a great set up there with Coach Cutcliffe – he had a great set up for us and it would be tough to get that anywhere else.
We played a prank on a first year guy – something we try to do every year. Someone who seems gullible and will take the bait. (The prank) didn’t work out as well as we wanted to, but it was worth the try. The Photoshop job (of Demaryius Thomas instead of Kenny Anunike) was a pretty good one – whoever did that did a really good job. Even ESPN was about to run with it. It was a nice little joke.
Most people forget that you actually spent a lot of your football career as a quarterback. What was it that finally gave you the nudge to switch over to tight end? How tough was it to let go of the QB position?
I probably wasn’t very good at quarterback – that was the thing. I was a quarterback in high school and I got to play a couple of years at Wisconsin. Some of the schools I was looking at right out wanted me to switch to tight-end right away, but I was too stubborn about playing quarterback. So, I got in a couple of games and didn’t perform very well and they were like, ‘Hey, we want to put you in as tight-end for this bowl game.’ So, I worked doing that and then made the final switch that next spring.
Did you find that once you made the switch, playing another position was easy – or at least “easier” – because you’d been a quarterback?
Yes, I think it helped out. I think just having a good base knowledge of the offense – as a quarterback you have to know where everybody is all of the time. Once I had made the move, seeing coverages, seeing fronts and knowing what everyone was doing on every play gave me a better big picture. That’s just how I had been trained to prepare so that’s how I continued to prepare. You know, the college game is a lot different from the NFL game, but I think it’s helped me out along the way.
Who were your football role models growing up? Any other athletes you looked up to? I know you played basketball as well.
I grew up in the golden age of Chicago basketball in the 90’s – it was MJ and Scottie and all of those guys – so I grew up in a good time. My childhood was spent watching Michael Jordan play and win championships. I always thought he was the best athlete that I ever got to watch. I love his competitiveness. I love how hard he worked. So, as far as basketball goes, that was an easy one for me. I tried to do crazy moves like Michael.
But I played all sports – football, basketball, baseball, and track and field growing up, so I loved Deion Sanders and Bo Jackson. I always wanted to wear number 21 because of Deion – it was the “look good, feel good; feel good, play good” thing. But I always thought Bo Jackson was the biggest freak athlete of all time – an All-Star in both sports. I’ve never gotten to meet any of those guys. I might have gotten to shake Deion’s hand along the way just from him doing sideline stuff now. I still have a lot of respect for all of those guys.
When you look back at the playoff game in New England last season, do you find yourself thinking, “Hey, I could have been in the Super Bowl?”
Yeah, for sure. Who knows what was going on (during that New England) game with the footballs, you know? It was cold that day. It was much colder than the week they played Indy. That’s always the goal, and I have never been (to the Super Bowl). I felt like we had it right in our grasp a couple of times. We were up 14. But you have to give them credit – they’re a good team. I have taken a few losses up there, so that one was tough.
What is it about the Ravens – or what the Ravens do – that makes that rivalry with New England so good? The Broncos traditionally have troubles in Foxboro, whereas the Ravens almost seemed to like going there?
I think it comes from the head coach, just the mentality of going (into New England). That’s the mentality that Coach Harbaugh had for the team all season. It doesn’t matter where we were going; we thought we could compete with anybody and we did for most of that day. They’ve had some success up there. So, I think just having a little bit of success – whether that’s during the regular season or in the playoffs. That intimidation factor or any little hint of doubt isn’t there. I think when (the Ravens) have been successful against them, we just kept things simple and we played better football. They’re going to do what they do – they’re going to find ways to get an advantage here and there, which every team tries to do for the most part. But we just played good football. They’re obviously a beatable team up there.
Emmanuel Sanders told NFL Network that Peyton Manning had the body of a 60-year old man…. he was kidding obviously, but do you think a comment like that instantly gets you about 15 more catches this season??
Oh yes – I’m trying to get on Peyton’s good side this year.
(Emmanuel Sanders) has a lot of jokes, which is great for the locker room. He had a great season last year. So I’m sure he’s pretty comfortable in his shoes right now.
I’ve gotten a sense from most of the guys are they’re pretty unselfish. I know Demaryius and Emmanuel both had over 100 catches and that’s not necessarily going to happen every year. There’s one ball and we spread the ball around. Peyton does an awesome job of that. But, I’ll take the catches if I can get ‘em.
Are you ready for the fantasy football question? You know, you’re going to be a very trendy pick this year…
It’s kinda crazy. Fantasy football is obviously huge. That’s probably 90 percent of the questions I get from fans. We will win the game, but I’ll have someone who wished I got one more touchdown or one more catch for (them). But if, you’re playing with Peyton, you’re going to be looked at as a higher fantasy pick. I’m trying to be better as a player than I was in the past, but I could be the exact same guy and be a higher commodity – it’s funny. I’m ready to be everyone’s fantasy football star on their squad. I hope everyone who drafts me has a good season and I hope they wish the same for me.
This story appeared in the July issue of Mile High Sports Magazine.