Preparing to invade Mexico

Published 12:00 am Sunday, November 21, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

When he was in college, Lamont Daniels lost nearly all of the mementos of his athletic career. Now, a decade later, he’s got a chance to earn some replacements.

Daniels first splashed onto the Suffolk sports scene in his freshman year at Suffolk High, when he was the Most Valuable Player of the track team, hurling the shotput and discus. He spent two years hitting the tracks and playing defensive tackle on the Suffolk football team, then broke in Nansemond River High by becoming one of the first Warriors to play both sports.

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After college, Daniels headed to Virginia State University in Petersburg, where he continued playing football. Then, one day when he was visiting home during his sophomore year, everything disappeared.

&uot;I was standing up the street,&uot; Daniels says in his Beech Street home. &uot;Someone came up and told me that my house was on fire.&uot;

He ran back to his home, but it was too late; the back part of the house, where all his trophies were stored, had burned beyond repair. Fortunately, no one was injured in the blaze.

After completing his second year at State, Daniels went to work for the Dallas Mavis trucking company, then did the same work for Real Transport. It was when he moved back to town in 2002 to drive for a Chesapeake paper recycling organization that a friend helped him take a few steps back toward the sports world.

&uot;I was working with my buddy last year, and he told me that I should play in the Charity Bowl,&uot; Daniels says of the annual football game played on Thanksgiving Day in Virginia Beach to raise money for local charities.

&uot;I was out there blocking against a guy who’d played for the (NFL’s Oakland) Raiders, and I was handling him pretty well,&uot; Daniels said. A coach from the now-defunct Norfolk Night-hawks arena football team spied him, and told Daniels of some local opportunities to continue his gridiron career.

&uot;Something just clicked,&uot; Daniels said. &uot;I said to myself, ‘You still have something.’&uot; He started back to the gym in April, soon benching 400 pounds – 110 above his own weight – and running a 4.82 in the 40-yard dash.

Though he’d hoped to become a Nighthawk, the squad folded after the 2003-04 season. In late July, he began playing with the semipro Virginia Vipers, then transferred to the nearby Virginia Pirates. By then, the defensive tackle who was coming back from a decade-long layoff was getting some attention.

&uot;Teams from England, Germany and Canada were asking about me,&uot; he said. &uot;A lot of doors opened for me. It was like everything was happening all at once.&uot; It’s still happening; on Nov. 12, Daniels received an invitation to play for Team USA in December in Mexico against the Mexico City Borregos, who made it to the World Cup of American Football title game last year. Daniels will be one of just 40 Americans to make the trip south.

&uot;I’m excited,&uot; he said. &uot;It’s got me really amped up. I’ve been running two miles a day. They might have me play offensive guard, because I can block real good.&uot;

And who knows where he might go from there?

&uot;At this point, I’m probably a little too old to play in the NFL,&uot; he said with a laugh. &uot;But I feel like I have three or four goof years of competitive play in me. When I walked away from the game, I was injury-free, and I’ve been injury-free since I came back. I’m going to make the best of the time I have left. I’m hoping for a contract.&uot; Scouts from several countries will be attending the Mexico game.

The following Nansemond-Suffolk Academy students were named to the All-TCIS football team this season:

Adam Gillette – receiver

Matt Tuttle – offensive lineman

Ben Parmenter – defensive lineman

Jason Rock – defensive lineman

Charles Persons – linebacker

Griffin Powell – defensive back

Suffolk public schools were represented by the following students in All-Southeastern District football ranks: First Team:

Greg Henderson (Lakeland), defensive lineman

Terry Bullock (Nansemond River), punter

Second Team:

Tyrone Parker (Lakeland), kick returner

Deon Powell (Nansemond River), defensive back

Honorable Mention:

Jay Bright (Nansemond River)

Jason Brown (Nansemond River)

D.J. Everett (Lakeland)

Kelly Sims (Lakeland)

Mike Parker (Lakeland)