Can 'very confident' Steven Daniels follow in the footsteps of Luke Kuechly in the NFL?

Mike Petraglia
March 18, 2016 - 10:19 am

CHESTNUT HILL -- Steven Daniels has a good deal in common with Luke Kuechly. They both played at Cincinnati St. Xavier High School, a football powerhouse program in the Midwest. They were recruited and starred at Boston College. And they both played inside linebacker. The question now for scouts and NFL personnel evaluators to determine, could Daniels make the same type of impact at the next level that Kuechly has in his career? While that question alone implies extraordinary expectations, Daniels feels very confident he can make it on Sundays. "Oh yeah, for sure. I'm a very confident person," Daniels said. "Just the work that I've put in makes me this confident." Daniels is listed at 5-foot-11 and that has prompted some concern among NFL evaluators. But the three-year starter for the Eagles is a big-time thumper in the middle. The evaluation calls Daniels a "Downhill daddy," a linebacker that can apply force up the middle as a solid run-stopper. As a freshman, he made 25 tackles and one start at Will linebacker. As a sophomore, he graduated to the first team (88 tackles, 6.5 for loss, three sacks, three pass breakups). Daniels had 72 tackles, 1.5 for loss, as a junior before really catching scouts' eyes as a senior in 2015. The first-team All-ACC selection led B.C. with 82 stops, 16 for loss, and six sacks as the Eagles ranked first in the FBS in total defense. It was last year that some started to see a BC comparison between Kuechly and Daniels. Kuechly made a huge impact with not just his tackling but his ball skills with the NFL's Panthers, becoming the first player in NFL history with interception returns for scores in consecutive playoff games against Seattle and Arizona. On Wednesday, at BC's Pro Day, Daniels was busy showing off his ball skills during pass coverage drills. "I've got big hands so I better be able to catch the ball," Daniels said. "It's just a must for linebackers in the NFL at this time." Kuechly isn't the only former BC player with whom Daniels feels a connection. There's Mark Herzlich and Bill Romanowski. The tradition of play-making linebackers is long and storied. "Here, just a legacy of great linebackers. A lot of guys have come before me," Daniels said. "I look up to those guys, watch film on those guys, communicate with those guys as much as I can. We had a great linebackers coach, defensive coordinator in Don Brown. He really helped me and molded us into being good linebackers." Before leaving for Michigan, Don Brown made Daniels a key part of the country's top-ranked defense at Boston College. "We did pretty well on defense and we had a good team," Daniels said in defending BC's 3-9 overall mark in 2015. "We just came up short in a bunch of games. We had offensive guys who were trying. I think it definitely helps us that we were able to go out there every week, no matter what was going on on the other side of the ball, if they were struggling, if they were doing well. To be consistent and come out to play every time." On Wednesday, Daniels had a good feeling that he made the right impression on the 16 NFL scouts that were on hand. "Everything went well out there. I felt great," Daniels said. "It was just more comfortable being here where I'm used to playing, having coaches and friends surrounding me. I definitely accomplished my goal, just to show that I'm still in shape, running around, move around and show how athletic I am. "I was pretty much prepared for everything. I did a bunch of drills, linebacker drills, DB drills. And I see myself as a free safety in the NFL anyway, so we're all good," Daniels said tongue-in-cheek. Told of Bill Belichick's caution to college players prepping for Combine workouts, Daniels says he's taken a balanced approach. "For me, it's just to be confident," Daniels said. "This is a sport I've been playing my whole life. If Coach Belichick says it, it's probably right. "You've just got to come out here and be a football player, and be an athlete. For us, we've practiced this stuff for two and a half, three months, in some cases. So, we've just got to come out here, be confident and do what we do. It's kind of the same thing but in some cases, a different experience because at the combine we're all put in one place. Here, it's just a couple of our guys, guys we've played with our whole careers and it just makes it a more relaxed environment."