Editor's note: Tight end *Owen Daniels will be providing periodic diary entries for HoustonTexans.com to give fans insight into the life of a rookie draft pick.*
These are my thoughts on the season. Even though our record doesn't show it, I don't think we're a bad team at all. I just think the consistency that we need to have throughout a whole game isn't there. The coaches are trying hard to develop a winning mentality here, and it's coming along. They keep telling us that if we play a full game and not three quarters or three-and-a-half quarters, we'll win games. If there's a quarter in there where we don't play well, then there's a good chance that we won't be successful. We see it on film and they point at things that we can fix. Everything I've seen so far is fixable. All we have to do is, as they say, put together a complete game. If we do, then we'll be all right.
One of the things that we've had to adjust to while attempting to play a full game is injuries. There are injuries in college here and there, but definitely not this many on one team. It's also different in the NFL because in college a player might be in for a few snaps a game, and it's easier to find a replacement. I've never seen so many guys who play so much suffer an injury that sidelines them for the season. The closest thing I saw to this was when I was a senior in high school. Our team had three or four starters go down for the year starting with me. I was done three games into my senior year after tearing my ACL. I got hurt in the first or second quarter, and played the rest of the game because they said it was fine. I thought I just had a Charlie Horse because I got hit right above my knee.
This year, I probably can't even name all the guys that have been injured. Then on Sunday, Sage Rosenfels breaks his thumb in the middle of the game and I was one play away from being a quarterback in an NFL game. I didn't even realize it until someone brought it up on Monday. If I had to, I could probably take some snaps and hand the ball off. I could even make some throws. I know enough to where we can run some basic pass plays and I know enough reads to where it wouldn't be too difficult. I could handle myself if I had to.
In case anyone is wondering, I was a quarterback before I was a tight end, and I was actually recruited to Wisconsin as a quarterback. In my second year at Wisconsin, the coaches wanted to experiment with me at tight end for the bowl game. They wanted to use me as a secret weapon to run down the field because I was faster than any of the tight ends that we had at that time and we really didn't have a receiving threat there. But I got hurt in bowl practice, and tore my ACL and MCL. I couldn't play in the game and I was going to miss all of spring ball. Right before spring ball started, the coaches came to me and said that they wanted to make the switch permanent, but it was up to me if I wanted to make the switch or not. If I was going to stay at quarterback, I would have to start over back at the bottom of the totem pole. I had another year to wait to play anyway, because we had a senior who was going to be the starting quarterback. There were three things I could do. I could have stayed at quarterback and start over, or I could transfer and lose a year, or make the switch to tight end. I didn't want to transfer because I had so many good friends there and I loved Madison and wanted to be part of their football program. It was a really tough decision to make. I consulted with my parents and teammates and all of my roommates. They all had really good advice and they're pretty logical and reasonable people. It came down to me just being sick of watching and wanting to be out there playing. I still really wanted to play quarterback, but it came down to just wanting to play. I think it ended up OK and I have no regrets.
One of the biggest factors in my success was having the coaching staff, particularly Jeff Horton, believe that I could do well at tight end. Coach Horton is now with the St. Louis Rams. He was the one that recruited me to Madison and he always had confidence in me even though I didn't end up playing quarterback for him. He really wanted me to stay there and try the new position. I still talk to coach Horton and he's been one of my friends for a while now.
I've been lucky having great coaches throughout my career. From when I first started playing football as a kid, there was Mr. Oliver and then Bob Napolitano – I actually played tight end for him and then went in a couple of times as a quarterback. That's where I got my start behind center. They were both great coaches for little kids, and they taught me a lot about football. Then, of course, my high school coach, Joe Bunge, knew a lot about football and played in college. I really liked him a lot as a coach and a person. He gave me the opportunity to start at quarterback as a junior. It was rare for a junior to start at quarterback. Usually, whoever the next senior was would start and there was a senior waiting in line. But he gave me the chance to play.
My tight ends coach this past year at Wisconsin, Paul Chryst, was from Wisconsin and played there. He has so much experience coaching at different places. He's coached in the NFL, been an offensive coordinator in college, and coached up in the Canadian league. He taught the game really well. I think I learned more in one year playing for him than I had in a lot of years combined. He taught me about defenses, running a certain route – not necessarily to get myself open, but to get somebody else open – and things similar to that. And of course there was coach Barry Alvarez, my head coach at Wisconsin. He did a great job running the program and turning the whole athletic program around from when he came in to when he retired. He and the athletic director needed to boost the football program so it could help out the other programs. Wisconsin was brutal in every sport back in the early '90s, and then coach Alvarez came in and slowly turned the program around and got the department out of debt. He's retired and handed over the reigns of the football program, but he's still the athletic director at Wisconsin.
All of my coaches had a positive effect on me. Everybody was different, too. I learned more from one person than I learned from another, but I would have a better relationship with one than the other. Most of the good ones that I've had taught the game very well because they had experienced playing at a lot of different levels. They also shared the passion to make their players better and have them learn as much about the game of football as possible. I think that's what all the great coaches have in common. They're just really good teachers and good role models. If they read this, I want them to know that I appreciate what they taught me.
Thanks a lot,