LSU Gold

On a Star-Studded Night in Death Valley, Daniels Shined Brightest

by Harrison Valentine | Digital Media Graduate Assistant
On a Star-Studded Night in Death Valley, Daniels Shined Brightest

From Shaq and Paul Skenes, to Dylan Crews and Chevy Chase, the stars were out for Saturday night’s showdown between LSU and Florida. 

None, however, shone brighter than Jayden Daniels, who began the night a Heisman hopeful and finished it a frontrunner.  

Not even the national championship rings of Jay Johnson and Kim Mulkey, which sparkled under the lights of Tiger Stadium like Clark Griswold’s two-story colonial on Christmas eve, could dim Daniels’ glow.

Daniels, leader of college football’s most prolific offense, accounted for 606 yards of total offense alone on Saturday night, netting 372 yards and three touchdowns through the air, with 234 yards rushing and two scores with his legs, en route to a 52-35 victory over the Gators in front of a sold out crowd.

With each perfect pass, with every electrifying run, Daniels stole the spotlight. 

“He’s the best quarterback in the country,” said head coach Brian Kelly, who took the podium Saturday and made his case. “He’s the best playmaker in the country. I’ve watched them all. We’re 7-3. That doesn’t mean anything. It matters who the best player is and he’s the best player.”

LSU’s quarterback has been running away from defenders all year long. That was nothing new – for Tiger fans, or Daniels’ foes.

On Saturday, however, Daniels ran away with history – rewriting the record books and rushing past contenders for the most coveted award in sports.

Neither the bright lights of Tiger Stadium, nor the feeble taunts from opposing venues, has ever seemed to faze LSU’s QB – the always cool, calm and collected California kid. Neither will the hustle and bustle of New York, or the dazzling lights of Times Square. 

Book your tickets. That Kid is on his way.

“If he didn’t win (the Heisman) tonight, then he’s got to be the leading candidate,” said Kelly postgame. “He did something tonight that nobody has ever done. If that doesn’t make you the leading candidate, then maybe the Heisman isn’t for the best player.”

The spotlight is bright at LSU, but so is the fire within Daniels, whose poise comes from confidence – in his preparation, in his abilities, and in his teammates. Nobody plays like Daniels, because nobody prepares like him. Ask his offensive coordinator, who’s had a front row seat to his process.

“It’s elite,” Mike Denbrock said of Daniels. “He came in and fostered growth among the offensive players as well as himself by studying film in the mornings and doing the extra things necessary to really prepare yourself.”

The louder it gets on the outside, the calmer Daniels gets on the inside. His demeanor – which seems unaffected in the biggest of moments – is a by-product of elite preparation. But make no mistake, Denbrock says, inside that helmet is a fire within LSU’s quarterback that is inextinguishable.

“I think people sometimes look at his demeanor as being kind of cool, calm and collected,” Denbrock said, “and I don’t think they understand the fire that’s inside that young man and how important it is for him to not only be the leader of the LSU Tigers offense, but to put the people around him in the best position possible.”

The toughness is Joe Burrow-like, and so are the numbers. But Daniels has forged his own legacy among LSU Football legends, and his story continues to be written. Against Florida, Daniels became the first player in FBS history to record 350+ pass yards and 200+ rush yards in a single game, setting the SEC single-game record for total offense.

Was Saturday his Heisman moment?

“I would say so, as humbly as possible,” Daniels said. “I just give things to God and my teammates because without them I wouldn’t be in this situation.”

That’s Jayden Daniels – a Heisman on the field, and a Heisman in the locker room, giving his teammates all the credit through all his glory.

So forget the records, and forget your popularity contests. The most outstanding player in college football wears purple and gold, and with two regular season games left to play, Daniels looks to engrave his name in history.

To the Tiger fans, the message is simple: enjoy him while you can.

To those who hope to chase him down, on the field or in the Heisman race: good luck catching up. 

That Kid is Broadway bound, where stars belong.