July 13, 2023

Hogan: Persistence Pays Off for Daniel

The American writer James A. Michener once wrote, “Character consists of what you do on the third and fourth tries.” If that is true, Robertson Daniel may have more character than anyone in the Canadian Football League.

The Toronto Argonauts defensive back turned heads in his last game; intercepting three passes in a 45-24 win over the BC Lions. It came after a performance in Edmonton where he recovered a pair of Elks fumbles in a 43-31 victory.

Pro Football Focus named him the CFL’s Player of the Month for June as he compiled the highest grade among any positional player in the league.

Circling back to the Michener quote, it’s somewhat surprising Daniel is in this position at all.

The U.S. Virgin Island born, Brooklyn, N.Y. and San Jose, California raised Daniel spent the first four years of his pro career on five NFL rosters. After one year in Calgary, the pending free-agent’s rights were traded to the Argos along with those of Cordarro Law and Eric Rogers.

Daniel has outlasted those former teammates in Double Blue, but it hasn’t been easy. A year lost to COVID-19 along with pair of injuries has limited his play to just three games since the 2019 season.

Michener may not have been ready for someone like Daniel.

The BYU product sat down with Argonauts.ca to discuss his road back to the lineup. He was asked what he’s discovered about his character over the last 36 months.

“I’ve learned that I’m a man of patience,” he said, pausing for a few seconds to consider the question before answering. “I have resilience, and I have a laser focus no matter how long it will take to accomplish what needs to be accomplished. I don’t really get wavered by things I can’t control.”

 

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That’s good, because the last three years have been essentially washed out because of things beyond his command.

Perhaps the most frustrating was a torn hamstring he suffered in the first quarter of the first game of 2022; it would cause him to miss the remainder of the championship season. He had worked hard to return to the lineup after a concussion cost him all but the first and final game of the 2021 campaign.

Despite the football gods seemingly out to get him, he never considered saying goodbye to a sport that he dearly loves.

“You live one life,” he said. “Everyone tries to tell you, ‘You should do this, or prepare for this,’ but the one thing we have to do is prepare for death. As I’m preparing for that I’m going to do the things that make me happy; the things that I love.”

It’s his positive mindset that has allowed him to focus on the now.

“While I was going through this it was really about the day-to-day. I wasn’t trying to think about next year and what I’m trying to do on the field, I thought, what can I do today to improve my injury, improve my body, and most importantly, improve my mind?”

He ran hills five times a week over the off-season preparing his body to get back into the lineup, but then was thrown another curveball; he was being moved to a new position.

When Daniel took to the field during training camp, he was lined up in the boundary halfback spot; a position he hadn’t played before. His limited on-field time in Toronto was spent at cornerback, while he also played some strongside linebacker in Calgary.

Like every other challenge sent his way, he attacked it.

“It wasn’t an easy camp,” he admitted. “Physically it was pretty easy, but mentally is where I really had to buckle down because I had to be patient. It’s a new position and I don’t like making mistakes, I don’t like getting beat; that type of thing gets under my skin. I had to be patient with myself knowing I was going to make mistakes; I was going to be late on some plays.”

He was a quick learner. There were many standouts at camp, none more so that Daniel. It looked like he had played the position his entire career; he was making plays all over the field and was a ball magnet with interceptions being plentiful.

That’s carried over into the regular season.

After producing more dramatic results in each of the first three weeks, Daniel was asked what he does for an encore Friday night in Montreal.

“One thing about me is that every week there is a high chance of me getting that football in my hands because I focus on film. I’m up every day at 4:30, I make my little lemon honey tea. It’s still dark. I turn the film on, and I’m locked in on your film until 6:30, 7:00. There’s one thing you’ll know about (number) zero when I get out there; I know what you’re doing and I’m going to get the ball in my hands.”

With seven interceptions in just 14 career CFL games, the hard work has paid off. It’s a true testament to Robertson Daniel’s character.