Chase The Ace
Originally Published- October 2012
by Rhonda Ross
Chase Daniel, quarterback for the New Orleans Saints and former Dragon, recently made a trip back home to Southlake to speak at the Southlake Chamber of Commerce Awards Banquet. Coach Todd Dodge, Daniel’s mentor as well as friend did the honors introducing his former quarterback to the crowded ballroom. “Having your mentor, the guy you call a second Dad introduce you, it doesn’t get any better than that,” Chase said. “Growing up in Southlake, I can’t imagine a better place. I was born in Irving but consider Southlake my home, we’ve been here so long. I can’t imagine being from any place else.”
A few years have passed since Daniel was an integral part of two State Championship seasons for the Dragons but he certainly hasn’t been resting on his laurels. An intelligent, hard working, extremely focused young man Chase spent some time with us looking back on his youth, “growing up moments”, winning a Super Bowl, and NFL life learning from one of the game’s greats.
The Dragon Years
Chase likens the feeling of playing Dragon football under the historical run of Coach Todd Dodge to living out a young boy’s dream. In this case, the reality ended up being so far beyond what most kids ever dream of.
When he was a sophomore at Carroll in 2002 the Dragons won the 5A Division II State Title with him in the role of wide receiver. For the next two years he would lead the Dragons at quarterback and take his team to a 31-1 record racking up a state runner up finish in 2003 and another state title for the Dragons in 2004.
“In high school we were so used to success, we were confident. Then in my junior year we were playing Katy for the state championship and I threw an interception and we lost the game. It was our first loss in two years,” Chase said. “I asked myself why we lost and that was my growing up moment.” But, even in a year that didn’t end in another Dragon state title, Coach Dodge saw something in his young quarterback. “In his junior year we were in a playoff game against Lubbock-Monterey and we were up 28 to 0, then they made a huge comeback to lead the game. It was 35 to 26 and Chase marched the ball 80 yards in three minutes and won the game. He had “the look.”
As a senior at Carroll he did it all, including taking on the role of punter during a game. “Coach just had such trust in me,” Daniel said. “During one game he just turned to me and told me I was punting the next time, so I did.” The outstanding showing by the Dragons that year landed the team a mythical National Championship after winning the state title. For his efforts, Daniel was named 5A Texas State Player of the Year and EA Sports National Player of the Year. Recalling his favorite memory from that year, he said, “It was during the State Championship game against Smithson Valley. There were five seconds left and (Kevin) Ortega was going out to kick the winning field goal. He made it, and it was pretty cool for a first time varsity kicker to seal the deal for us.”
He recently said, “Being a Dragon is not only an honor but a responsibility and I took it seriously from the beginning. We (at Carroll) are so far ahead of the curve not only athletically but academically that the transition from high school to college is seamless.”
Eye of the Tiger - The Missouri Years
Despite his many high school accolades, Chase wasn’t recruited heavily by Texas, his preferred school. This gave Missouri the opportunity to recruit and offer him a chance to become part of a resurgent program. It’s ironic that after Chase committed to Mizzou Longhorn Coach Mack Brown began to seriously look at the young player. Despite the interest by Texas, Daniel stuck to his verbal commitment with Missouri also turning down scholarships from Maryland, Oklahoma State, Stanford, and Texas A&M. Daniel felt comfortable from the moment he visited Missouri, “It just felt like home, I loved it,” he said. In 2006, as a sophomore, Daniel was the starter for all 13 games and set a school record for passing touchdowns in a game, five scores in the season opener against Murray State. Throwing for 3,527 yards with a 63.5% completion rate and 28 touchdowns Daniel was one of 35 quarterbacks placed on the 2007 watch list for the prestigious Manning Award for quarterbacks named in honor of University of Mississippi (Old Miss) quarterback Archie Manning and his quarterback sons, Peyton and Eli.
His junior season brought more success to Daniel and Mizzou as the school wrapped up a school-best 12-2 season with a 38-7 win over Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl on January 1, 2008. Just a short week later, the Tigers were ranked No. 4 in the Associated Press’ final poll, the highest final ranking in school history. The offensive numbers Daniel put up were impressive and even better than his prior year, throwing for 4,306 yards with a 68.2% completion rate and 33 touchdowns.
The accolades for the 2007-08 season racked up as Daniel was named First Team All-Big 12, Big 12 Male Athlete of the year, Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year, semifinalist for the Maxwell Award, finalist for Manning Award, Walter Camp Award, and Davey O’Brien Award. On December 5, 2007, Chase was invited by the Heisman Trophy Trust to go to New York City as one of four finalists for the top award in college football. Never forgetting his Dragon roots, he asked Coach Dodge to travel with him to New York. Although his mentor couldn’t attend he was there in spirit. That year Chase finished fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting becoming only the third Tiger, and first Dragon, to ever finish in the top-10.
During his senior season Daniel continued to break virtually every Missouri passing record. He became the school’s career total offense yardage leader with 13,256 moving ahead of his predecessor Brad Smith’s 13,088. “Missouri got to a number one ranking my junior and senior year and that had not been done since 1960,” Daniel said. Looking back he recalled a favorite collegiate moment, “It was during ‘The Border War’ in 2007. We beat Kansas at Arrowhead Stadium in Kansas City to win the Big XII North Championship and vault us to number one in the Country.” College was now behind Chase but the future stretched before him.
Life in the NFL
Highly decorated yet undrafted, Daniel had a bit of an inauspicious start to his NFL career. “I didn’t get drafted and you start to wonder,” Daniel mused, “Am I too short? Do I not throw well enough?” But it wasn’t long before the phone started ringing. “Then I got a call from the Dallas Cowboys and the Washington Redskins. I went with the Redskins and ended up being cut. I was heartbroken,” he said. “The next day Coach [Sean] Payton called and said we’d love to have you as our third quarterback.” With Payton’s knowledge of Texas football learned during his time as an assistant head coach of the Dallas Cowboys under Bill Parcells and the physical resemblance of Daniel to team quarterback, Drew Brees, Payton was well aware of the weapons in his arsenal.
Six months later the New Orleans Saints won the Super Bowl and a young man realized a young boy’s dream. “To win the Super Bowl was a complete blessing. I got to enjoy the process in my rookie year, which is absolutely incredible,” Daniel shared. Chase said unpretentiously, “I thought, wow, Dan Marino is one of the greatest quarterbacks ever and even he doesn’t have a super bowl ring.”
Going into the 2010 season, he was expected to battle Patrick Ramsey for the backup quarterback position behind Drew Brees. Both contenders put up similar numbers during the preseason and Daniel was chosen for the role while Ramsey had been waived. Continuing as the primary backup to Brees and serving as the team’s placekick holder during the 2010 and 2011 seasons the focused player worked alongside Drew Brees learning the ropes.
“I couldn’t imagine learning from anybody else but Drew as I learn this game,” Chase said. “He has taught me not only how to prepare like a true pro on a daily basis but also the ins and outs of the game.” Chase takes advantage of working with Drew and the working relationship has quickly become a friendship. “To have a future hall of famer teaching you is such a blessing. I try to take everything in and put my own spin on things.” In March of this year he signed a new, one year contract with the Saints.
Chase attributes his success to three key factors he, and all the other Dragons, learned from Coach Dodge.” Daniel said. “ Growth comes through hard work, goal setting, and attitude.” Chase talked about breaking his goals down into what he calls his “stepping stones,” “I have short-term goals, daily and weekly. Then my mid-term goals or monthly targets and my long term yearly goals.”“There is just no substitute for hard work,” Chase said. He is up at 5am and working until 7pm six or seven days a week for six months out of the year. “Coach Dodge always said, “Big Team, Little Me,” and I’m still believing it every day.”
The final Xfactor in the equation for success according to Daniel is attitude. “It’s even in the Saints motto,” Chase said. “Stick together men, no matter what – be the next man up. Attitude is everything.”
For Chase the experience of being in the NFL is definitely living up to the dream. “The reality of playing in the NFL is everything I had dreamed of and more,” Chase said. “Think about it. How many people can truly say they get to wake up and do something they love and are so passionate about every single day. I am truly blessed.”