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Daniels' bye week of football and fun


For most men, weekends during the fall and winter revolve around two things: fun and football.

For the guys playing the game, however, it's a totally different story. Position meetings and playbooks dominate Saturdays. And Sundays are when the pros earn their paychecks.

That all changes during the hallowed NFL bye week, when players get to kick back and enjoy life as a football fan. Just ask tight end Owen Daniels, who spent the Texans' Week 10 bye celebrating his birthday at his alma mater, the University of Wisconsin.

"From the time I got there on Friday through Saturday night, the weekend was just awesome," Daniels said. "Friday was my birthday. I was hanging out with old friends and going to bars that I used to go to back in the day. Then Kristina, my girlfriend, had a surprise party for me at one of the bars. I was like, 'All my friends are here. This is awesome!' Then people started bringing out cakes and birthday hats. I was surprised. It was really cool. Even Ronnie (Dayne) made it there."

Dayne, who left Wisconsin several years before Daniels, joined his teammate in strapping on a cone hat and posing for fans' photographs.

"Not many people asked for autographs," Daniels said. "But a couple of people came up and said, 'Hey, I have you on my fantasy team.' And that was really cool. The fans and the people in Madison are awesome."

The following morning, Daniels got to join the ranks of college football fandom, starting with his first tailgate.

"The last time I went to a game where I wasn't actually playing, I was 18 years old and with my parents and watching in the stands," Daniels said. "This time, I got to enjoy some of the tailgating beforehand."

{QUOTE}But the Wisconsin-Michigan game was certainly the highlight of Daniels' weekend. The tight end cheered from the field, often uncontrollably, as his unranked Badgers dismantled the Wolverines.

"I was all over the place," Daniels said. "The officials kept asking us to back up off the sidelines. We were loving it."

Daniels also got to take part in the halftime jersey retirement celebration for Dayne, the 1999 Heisman Trophy winner.

"I wasn't there when he was there, but I was reminded of what an unbelievable player he was," Daniels said. "He was a beast. It wasn't fair, really. He was bigger, faster and just a better player than anybody out there. He's the leading NCAA rusher of all time. It was really a cool thing for him.

"And there's no better atmosphere. I'm biased because I went to Wisconsin, but we get the best, most loyal fans. It really was the most perfect Saturday. There's nothing more I could have asked for - from Ron's celebration to beating Michigan."

Now, it's back to work Daniels and the Texans. The tight end doesn't mind. In fact, he's looking forward to facing the Texans' seven remaining opponents.

"I just feel refreshed and rejuvenated," Daniels said. "It was good to have some time off and get my mind off of football and give my body a break from the pounding. I'm ready to get going now."

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