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It's business, not bling, for Jalon Daniels at this Big 12 Media Day

KU quarterback projects much different vibe than the showman personality he showcased in 2023

5 min read
Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels talks to a reporter during Big 12 Media Day on Wednesday, July 10, 2024 at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas. [R1S1 Sports photo]

One year ago in Dallas, Kansas quarterback Jalon Daniels was the talk of Big 12 Media Days, both as the preseason offensive player of the year and also because of his flashy gold suit that featured a one-of-a-kind necklace which played his own highlights on a loop.

No such flare this year. Not even in Vegas.

Instead, Daniels sported an all-black look, with the suit, pants, shoes and shirt all matching. The only thing he had on that even resembled flash was a relatively understated rose gold and white gold chain and his signature smile.

Daniels told R1S1 Sports that he decided on the all-black look about a month ago and that he wanted it to represent the whole reason he came this year — to be about business.

So much so that when three of the four Jayhawks who represented the program at Allegiant Stadium chose to kick back and use an early-afternoon break in their schedule to rest and relax away from the action, Daniels went back out to the field.

He was ready to do any and every interview that anyone wanted to do — radio, print, television, on-the-record, off-the-record and more.

It wasn’t so much because he was bored or antsy. Rather, he was happy to talk. It had been since Week 4 of the 2023 season that he last talked to the local media. And there was a lot to be said.

He took advantage of the opportunity to set the record straight on last year’s back injury which cost him the second half of the season and also on his commitment to KU.

In short, Daniels never thought of going anywhere and never wavered in his commitment to his teammates, coaches and the Kansas program.

He said it killed him to not be out there — again! — and that’s why he was so happy to be in Las Vegas on Wednesday, with a new season and another chance just 50 days away.

He didn’t stand out in the same way he did last year. But, in many ways — the most important ways — he may have stood out more.

Don’t get it twisted. Daniels is never going to take the fun out of his fire. He’s way more interested in showcasing his personality and using it to show people who he truly is than he is in bland answers and a robotic tone.

So, no matter where he is or what he’s doing, Daniels is almost always going to shine.

But his focus on Wednesday was as much on the substance of the experience, and his role in it, as it was the sizzle.

Even his teammates noticed that.

“After the (2022) season, he was on an all-time high and had all the confidence in the world,” KU running back Devin Neal recalled in an interview with R1S1 Sports. “As unfortunate as that (2023 injury) situation was, I think it made him reflect on what actually mattered to him. Not the jewelry. Not the fame. I thought about the same thing myself. But he’s extremely different in nature and I think it’s going to lead him to be the best leader we’ve seen, the best quarterback; I think he’s gonna have a crazy season.”

KU teammates Jalon Daniels (left) and Devin Neal (right) talk to reporters during the breakout session at Big 12 Media Day. [R1S1 Sports photo]

Truth be told, Daniels can’t wait. And that, too, was evident on Wednesday in Vegas.

The now-senior quarterback is ready to move forward and get back to playing the game he loves — nothing more, nothing less.

“I think there’s an aspect of, people doubted him, people questioned him and he’s here to show I’m about me, I’m about my business, I’m about my team,” Neal said. “That’s the feeling I’m getting from him.”

There are still parts of how it all went down last season that annoy Daniels. Things that were said. Things he couldn’t say. The injury in the first place, especially after they focused the entire offseason on building him up to be “bulletproof.”

It turns out he wasn’t. In all fairness, he probably can’t be. No one can. As much as he believed that he and strength coach Matt Gildersleeve had covered everything, they did not — maybe even could not — account for the specific back injury that burned him.

That hurt on multiple levels. But it’s all a part of the past now. And Daniels, at age 21, nearly four years after jumping into the starting role at age 17 on a winless Kansas team, believes that everything he’s been through, good and bad, has put him in this spot for this opportunity.

No need to dwell on any of it. Instead, it’s all about looking forward and believing that the lofty goals that the Jayhawks and others have set for this Kansas team this season are not only attainable but also expected.

“If you didn’t listen to the noise when there was negative stuff (being said) about the program, why would you listen when there’s positive stuff (being said) about it,” he said.

His sister gave him a similar mantra to follow.

“You’ll never been as bad as they say you are and you’ll never be as good as they say you are,” she told him. “So, you can listen to all the outside noise you want. But as long as you know what you have going on internally, you should be perfectly OK.”

As long as this is the year that Daniels finally avoids the injury bug, the rest of that “perfectly OK” equation appears to be in fine shape.

Stay in touch with R1S1 Sports site "Wave the Wheat," which celebrated its 1-year anniversary today, for much more from this year's Big 12 Media Days event in Las Vegas.

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