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McDaniel overcomes adversity, signs letter of intent

Photo courtesy of Kennedy Football
Photo courtesy of Kennedy Football

For Kennedy-Richmond senior defensive tackle, offensive guard and punter Jaylen McDaniel, his motivation lies right in his household.

McDaniel points to his younger brother, who he’s been through it all with. They went through days of living from motel to hotel. He said they were fortunate to have their family bring the two of them out of it.

Recently, McDaniel’s family also lost two cousins to gun violence over the past few months.

“That really just motivates me to get out of the area and go do big things, which is football or whatever I’m going to college to study for,” McDaniel said. “It’s quite a few motivations for me, but if I could say which one is the biggest I would say it’s my little brother because I really just want to just show him the good route to get out.”

But, despite all of the adversity thrown his way, McDaniel never wavered, and his family wouldn’t let him either.

Kennedy head football coach Greg Marshall, his family, parents, everyone – they all said he would be a college football player someday and that he would do special things. 

“Just the whole nine,” McDaniel said. “I knew I could make it big. Going to college, me going to college, it’s always been you’re going to, so I’ve always kept that in mind, but football just really boosted me to go to an actual college and not have to pay as much money.”

Entering high school, though, McDaniel said he wasn’t planning to continue his football career. He was done with the sport and didn’t think it was the path for him.

Then, it all changed. 

“But then once I came to high school and saw what it can actually do for me and how much love I really do have for the sport, it really just boosted me to do good,” McDaniel said. “That’s pretty much it.”

Kennedy head football coach Greg Marshall has seen firsthand just the special talents McDaniel boasts on the football field, playing a key role as an athlete and a leader as to why Kennedy’s football program is on the upswing every year – Kennedy won 11 games in 2019 and was a North Coast Section Division VI runner-up, coming within a field goal of a crown before falling in 31-28 fashion to St. Bernard’s.

Marshall said McDaniel is a former quarterback, and his athletic prowess is always on display.

“What stands out about Jaylen is he’s a hard worker,” Marshall said. “Real good kid. Definitely going to miss him in our program. He’s a once in a lifetime kid to get your hands on, and Clarke got one heck of an athlete. Jaylen is a former quarterback. Varsity as a sophomore, so he’s very athletic.”

Over this offseason, although the complexion of the world changed and altered many student-athletes to adjust how they train outside of the game, McDaniel found ways to bolster his game even more.

He said it really opened his eyes to more resources, that you can’t just wait on others and that he hasn’t let school being virtual stop him from outworking the pack.

“But me personally that hasn’t really stopped me from still keeping on my grind and just keeping myself in shape and just getting the best help for me,” McDaniel said.

In a few months, McDaniel will be off to compete at the NAIA level at Clarke University in Iowa.

Never once would McDaniel let any setbacks deter him from this path. And never would his family let those deter him either.

Everyone in his support group knew he could and would do this someday. They all knew he could and would become a college football player someday.

That day came, as McDaniel signed his letter of intent to make those dreams a reality.

“It’s exciting, really,” McDaniel said. “I always thought about it. I always dreamed about going and playing college football. It’s always been a dream, and it’s just been coming into a reality. My four years really went by fast like everybody said it would. I’m just really excited to just go and show my talent and show my worth.”

With much of McDaniel’s senior year – and many other class of 2021 individuals – far from the ordinary and with the season being delayed until games at the earliest beginning next month, McDaniel is ready for his one last ride at Kennedy.

All McDaniel wants to do is enjoy those final days of high school, provide some pancake blocks, get to the opposing quarterback and shine with his teammates.

“And running down the sidelines when we score a touchdown,” McDaniel said.


  1. Beatrice Harris on February 23, 2021 at 1:40 pm

    Congrats Great Nephew! So proud of you staying focus and finishing strong! We love you❤ Auntie Bea😘

  2. Cedric Donaldson on February 23, 2021 at 1:54 pm

    Congrats Cousin? Way to grind though it all!

  3. Janon Billingsley- mom on February 23, 2021 at 4:45 pm


  4. Dre Johnson on February 23, 2021 at 10:22 pm

    Way to go lil cuz. Proud of you guy!

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