HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - "T'Rod [Daniels] is fast," said USM senior running back Ito Smith. "He kind of reminds me of myself but he's just faster than me."
"Man, that's about the fastest guy I've ever seen," said USM junior linebacker Jeremy Sangster. "He is 'shwoo.' That's all I can say: 'shwoo.'"
The Golden Eagles have talked about the speed of newcomer T'Rod Daniels all offseason long.
The junior transfer from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College carried the ball just one time in USM's season-opener. However, on his second touch of Saturday's game, Daniels got the chance to show off his wheels, bursting free for a 49-yard touchdown run.
"I just had to score. I know I be getting less carries, like hey, you know, they may pull me out of here now and then...so I gotta make this one count. Then they call my favorite play, I was like I aint going down. A sniper gonna have to take me out... As we came out there, I just see the pylon and I was like, oh it's over with. I know nobody gonna catch me. I had to turn them jets on. "
One move and Daniels was gone, 49 yards to the house for his first touchdown in a Golden Eagle uniform. The Southern Miss sideline finally witnessed firsthand Daniels' sub-4.3-second 40-yard dash speed.
"He's got that gear," said USM head coach Jay Hopson. "T'Rod's one of those guys if he gets loose, he's gone. He's a guy that we certainly need that big play ability."
"Speed and a great attitude," said USM offensive coordinator Shannon Dawson. "That kid loves to compete. I love being around that kid. He has a great, infectious attitude. It's awesome."
Daniels is a true testament that hard work pays off. After helping Bassfield High win three straight state championships (2012-14), Daniels spent two seasons dodging tacklers at Mississippi Gulf Coast.
The halfback rushed for 765 yards and seven touchdowns as a Bulldog in 2016, but said a Division I score is an entirely different feeling.
"It felt great," Daniels said. "I came to the sideline and Ito [Smith] was like, 'How's it feel?' It feels great. I'm telling you, I don't care who we play, I just wanted to get in the end zone. I just know that when I do get it, I need to make it count. A lot of people be watching me, a lot of people [tell me], 'I want to see you break that thing.' I was like, I need to break that thing tonight."
Daniels took advantage of his playing time in USM's 45-0 blowout of Southern, rushing for 83 yards on ten carries. Hopson said it's a luxury for Southern Miss to have a number of guys to depend on offensively.
"I think we're much more well-rounded where we have playmakers at every spot," Hopson said. "So it's not like you can sit there and say, 'Let's load up and stop Ito.' Well that's great, we got enough guys there that can go get after it."
"The tempo of us, if we get it moving, we know nobody can stop us," Daniels said. "We only can hurt ourselves, like turnovers. Coach [Hopson] says, 'Take care of the ball, take care of the ball.' [We] just do what we're taught."