McDaniels is happy to be home at MJC

Sometimes the best way to get yourself back on track is to go home.

That's the decision Seth McDaniels made last month when things weren't falling into place the way he expected them to in the Sacramento State football program.

Playing for Modesto Junior College immediately, and being close to his family, made sense to McDaniels. He hopes the move will pay off for the Pirates, who play Gavilan tonight at 7 at Gilroy High, as much as it does for him.

"I definitely want to help the team," McDaniels said. "I'm so glad they brought me in. I want to play. I can't stop playing. They'll have to drag me off the field. I think that speaks for itself. I'll go anywhere to play."

A 2004 Beyer High graduate, McDaniels started three games at tailback for the Hornets last fall after spending two years in the Fresno State program. But a disagreement between McDaniels and a new Hornet coaching staff made McDaniels decide he might be better served elsewhere.

McDaniels said he'd love to return to Sacramento next year. Or he may transfer somewhere else after earning his associate's degree in physical education this semester. McDaniels said he wouldn't trade his college football experience, but it has certainly been rocky.

McDaniels was headed to NAIA school Eastern Oregon out of high school on a full scholarship. Told he was too slow to be a running back -- he rushed for 742 yards and nine touchdowns his senior year at Beyer -- the 6-foot-2, 225-pound McDaniels thought he'd become a linebacker.

Then Fresno State contacted him about walking on. The allure of playing close to home at a top-level program made McDaniels head south.

He never played for Fresno, though. McDaniels trained but didn't suit up his freshman year, then redshirted as a sophomore after tearing his right hamstring on the first day of camp.

To get back on the field, McDaniels agreed with Fresno State coaches that transferring would be the best option.

"It's just that I wanted to play and if I transferred down, I knew I could play," McDaniels said. "Sacramento was right up the road."

When things soured at Sacramento, McDaniels sent a text message to Modesto JC running back and childhood friend Marquell Colston, asking if the Pirates could use another player.

Soon McDaniels was talking to the MJC coaching staff. McDaniels was welcomed just before the season began even though there wasn't an apparent spot for him. Illness and ineligibility changed that.

McDaniels arrived late and said, "Where can I go?" instead of demanding preferential treatment based on his experience. Being eager to fill in anywhere made an impression with coaches, and they think the players have noticed, too.

"He's been where some of them aspire to be," head coach Sam Young said.

Last week McDaniels played every down of the season opener, impressing the coaching staff with the endurance that enabled him to take 90 snaps.

Young described McDaniels as a Tasmanian Devil -- fiery, intense and relentless.

"He never takes anything off," Young said. "He goes full speed, but he knows when to pull up. You know he's practiced and played at a higher level."