Darrion Daniels was dejected and emotional. He just learned his football season — and possibly his college career — was over.
A torn tendon in his left pinky required surgery, and ended his senior year at Oklahoma State after four games. He needed to talk to someone. He dialed his brother.
Damion Daniels, a redshirt freshman defensive lineman at Nebraska, listened and consoled. But before the conversation ended, the Husker worked in a joke: You should come play with me.
Darrion laughed, but the idea stuck with him. Three months later, it became a reality as the 6-foot-3, 320-pound D-lineman signed with NU on Friday as a graduate transfer. Nebraska announced the news on social media as its Class of 2019 bumped to 24 scholarship signees in the early signing period.
Daniels — who will have one season in Lincoln — had offers to join Texas Tech, Mississippi, Auburn, LSU and others for his final season. But the notion of lining up with his brother was too tempting to pass up. They played together for one season at Bishop Dunne High in Dallas before an injury to Damion wiped out the possibility of another.
“I didn’t really have the opportunity to fully grasp and live in the moment of actually playing with my brother,” Darrion said Friday. “Me playing with him in high school was good while it lasted. But me playing with him on a bigger stage, that would really make my college career. As a whole, I feel complete, even though I feel like I didn’t do everything I wanted to do accoladeswise.”
Darrion Daniels had 64 tackles and two sacks in four seasons at OSU and was a vocal leader this year, even traveling on road trips after his injury. His best season was 2017, when he started 10 games while logging 26 tackles — five for loss — half a sack and two pass breakups. He earned the Vernon Grant Award for outstanding leadership, spirit and enthusiasm after the campaign.
Tony Daniels — a former 250-pound All-America D-lineman at Texas Tech in the mid-1990s — told The World-Herald his older son is even better rushing the passer and stopping the run than he showed at OSU, where he mainly played on early downs.
“I think he’ll fit in this scheme a lot better,” Tony Daniels said. “I don’t think they’ve seen leadership like what he’s going to bring to the table. I think (Nebraska) has got another jewel coming.”
The elder Daniels said that while Damion is best suited for nose tackle, or defensive tackle in a four-man front, Darrion can thrive anywhere on the line. Known around Oklahoma State for his singing and high motor, he’ll also motivate Damion in ways that only an older brother can.
“Damion is that risk taker and Darrion is the conservative type,” Tony Daniels said. “Baby brother would try to outdo him and Darrion wouldn’t let that happen. At the end of the day, Damion should get a lot of credit for how Darrion participates in athletics. I think it’s going to be a good deal, those guys being together.”
Darrion Daniels will enroll in January at Nebraska, though he wasn’t always sure this was where he would end up. He didn’t even know transferring was possible until Damion sent him an article at midseason explaining the new NCAA rules. Darrion visited Lincoln for the Minnesota game, when Oklahoma State had an off week, and thought some more about his sibling’s offer, though his main focus remained with his OSU teammates. After praying about it for days, he informed Cowboy coaches of his decision Dec. 3.
Oklahoma State coach Mike Gundy had said in September he hoped “like crazy” Darrion would return. But he revisited the situation with local reporters after hearing from the two-year starter.
“We lost a defensive lineman, a 325-pounder. It’s hard for us to find those guys,” Gundy said. “They don’t grow that many of ’em around here, so I hated to see that. (Darrion) came in and said he wanted to play his last year with his brother. Short conversation.”
Coach Scott Frost said Wednesday that additional signatures could be arriving before the early signing period concluded Friday.
“If we have spots after (Wednesday), it’s going to be the best we can get,” Frost said, “guys that fit us the best whether it’s a grad transfer, a junior college kid or a high school kid.”
The NFL is likely the next destination for Darrion, who will pursue a master’s degree in applied sciences at NU. For now, he’s ready to help at a position of need and reignite a sibling rivalry that has raged between the two since childhood.
“If he’s squatting 600 pounds, I’m going to squat 602.5 pounds just to have that edge over him,” Darrion said. “But just being in the same jersey as my brother next year already makes it a success.”
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Nebraska's former head football coach Tom Osborne looks on from the sideline before the Colorado game.
Shelley Malone and Jayme Malone, of Lincoln, who have been married for 42 years walk through a shaft of light in the concourse of Memorial Stadium prior to the Troy game.
Nebraska's Devine Ozigbo (22) carries the ball upfield against Northwestern during the fourth quarter.
Northwestern's Flynn Nagel (2) bobbles the ball that was ultimately intercepted by Nebraska's Tre Neal (14) during the fourth quarter.
Nebraska's Stanley Morgan Jr gives a peace symbol after scoring a touchdown against Illinois.
Nebraska's Adrian Martinez jumps in the air after a win over Michigan State.
Nebraska's Maurice Washington is lifted into the air after scoring a touchdown against Iowa.
The golden feathers atop the Minnesota band hats glow before the game against Nebraska.
Nebraska's Dicaprio Bootle, left, and Cam Taylor celebrates beating Michigan State 9-6.
Antonio Reed, right, forces Michigan State's Rocky Lombardi to fumble the ball in the fourth quarter.
Nebraska's Adrian Martinez scores a fourth quarter touchdown against Iowa.
Iowa's Jake Gervase can't stop Nebraska's Jack Stoll from scoring a first quarter touchdown.
Nebraska's Devine Ozigbo celebrates a first quarter touchdown against Minnesota.
Nebraska's Stanley Morgan Jr. reaches for a punt midway through the third quarter against Michigan State.
Nebraska's Matt Jarzynka hugs his mother Susan, as she and his father Mike Jarzynka participate in senior day ceremonies.
Nebraska's Jerald Foster lifts up place kicker Barret Pickering after a field goal against Michigan State.
Nebraska's Stanley Morgan Jr. catches a pass against Michigan State at the 12-minute mark in the fourth quarter.
Nebraska's Barret Pickering, center, celebrates hitting a fourth quarter field goal with teammates Tanner Farmer, left, and Kurt Rafdal, right.
Nebraska's Jack Stoll (86) is hit and flanked by Purdue's Tario Fuller (25) and Dedrick Mackey (1) on a kick return during the second quarter.
Nebraska's Devine Ozigbo runs against Bethune-Cookman.
Nebraska head coach Scott Frost congratulates Mick Stoltenberg on his pass interception late in the fourth quarter against Illinois.
Nebraska's Devine Ozigbo runs for a fourth quarter touchdown as Illinois' Jartavius Martin chases him.
A stiff wind blows the beard of Lyle Bridgmon, of Falls City, Nebraska around, as he waits for the start of the Nebraska and Michigan State game outside of Memorial Stadium.
Nebraska's Devine Ozigbo gets tackled by Michigan State's Andrew Dowell, No.5, and Kenny Willekes, No. 48, on the first drive of the game.
Nebraska's Stanley Morgan Jr. (8) fails to make a catch while guarded by Colorado's Evan Worthington (6) and Delrick Abrams (1) during the third quarter.
Nebraska Head Coach Scott Frost waves to the crowd as he leaves the field after defeating Bethune-Cookman 45-9.
Nebraska's Noah Vedral sits in the end zone after scoring a touchdown in the fourth quarter against Bethune-Cookman.
Bethune-Cookman's David Israel throws a pass in the third quarter against Nebraska.
Nebraska's Noah Vedral dives for a touchdown against Bethune-Cookman.
Nebraska's Adrian Martinez throws a pass in the second quarter against Minnesota.
Fans can get a detailed view of Nebraska's Memorial Stadium via a custom tour arranged through the athletic department.
Nebraska's Aaron Williams celebrates making a 4th down stop in the second quarter against Minnesota.
Nebraska's Stanley Morgan Jr. pokes Nebraska head coach Scott Frost while he is being interviewed after the Minnesota game.
Nebraska's JD Spielman walks into the end zone for a second quarter touchdown against Minnesota.
Nebraska's Noah Vedral throws a pass in the third quarter against Bethune-Cookman.
Purdue's D.J. Knox (1) leaps over Nebraska's Lamar Jackson (21) bringing the ball to the 1-yard-line during the second quarter.
Nebraska defensive coordinator Erik Chinander runs the stairs at Michigan Stadium before the start of the game.
Husker fans Ian Froemming, center, and Chris Miller, right, both of Omaha, aren't impressed as Michigan scores a first quarter touchdown.
Nebraska's Adrian Martinez is sacked by Michigan defenders Devin Bush (10), Michael Dwumfour (50) and Devin Gil (36) in the second quarter.
Purdue's Kenneth Major breaks up a fourth quarter pass intended for Nebraska's Stanley Morgan Jr.
Fans walk around campus before the start of the Nebraska and Minnesota.
Nebraska head coach Scott Frost leads the Huskers on the field for the first time as coach before the Akron game that was rained out.
Christa Rahl cheers as she and the rest of the student section wait out the weather delay against Akron.
Morgan Peatrowsky of West Point, Nebraska, stands in the rain as the crowd is cleared from the bleachers because of lightning before the Akron game that was rained out.
Nebraska's Stanley Morgan Jr. falls into the fans seating while going for a fourth quarter pass against Colorado.
Nebraska's Dicaprio Bootle breaks up a pass intended for Colorado's K.D. Nixon in the third quarter.
Nebraska's quarterbacks coach, Mario Verduzco, removes a unlit cigar from his mouth as he and the Huskers arrive at Memorial Stadium for the Unity Walk prior to the Akron game that was rained out.
Nebraska's Stanley Morgan Jr. (8) attempts to leap over Ohio State's Damon Arnette (3) during the first quarter.
Nebraska's head football coach Scott Frost exits the field after the 36-31 loss to Ohio State.
Nebraska's senior Jerald Foster (67) is embraced by head coach Scott Frost during a senior ceremony prior to the Michigan State game.
Nebraska's Jaevon McQuitty (4), Tanner Farmer (63) and Jordan Ober (84) participate in the tunnel walk before the game against Michigan State.
Nebraska's head coach Scott Frost hoists a football in the air after defeating Michigan State 9-6.
Nebraska's Adrian Martinez enters Ohio Stadium prior to the Ohio State game.
Nebraska's Adrian Martinez (2) celebrates his touchdown with teammates Kurt Rafdal (82) and Brenden Jaimes (76) against Ohio State during the second quarter.
Nebraska's head football coach Scott Frost walks off the bus as he arrives at Memorial Stadium for the Unity Walk prior to the game against Akron that was rained out.
Nebraska's Austin Allen takes the field with fellow Huskers prior to kickoff against Northwestern.
Nebraska's head coach Scott Frost burries his face in his hands after visiting an injured Luke Gifford during the fourth quarter against Northwestern.
Cheese head, Brett Peterson, of Stevens Point, Wisconsin, and corn head Casey Conner, of Athens, Wisconsin, look on during the Wisconsin game.