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Jayden Daniels finds ways to out-smart varsity defenses, even as a freshman

Photo credit: Lorenzo Reyna

When someone sits down and watches all 16 minutes and 27 seconds of Jayden Daniels’ Hudl film, they’ll see a young freshman quarterback eradicating varsity defensive schemes with his right arm and legs.

But while the Class of 2019 prospect from San Bernardino kingpin Cajon High School dismantles teams off of pure athleticism, Daniels said it is what’s between his ears that becomes his most powerful weapon on the football field: his brain. Daniels, who ravaged defenses in the Inland Empire with 2,694 yards, 35 touchdown passes and 10 interceptions, takes pride in his high football IQ; which he called his biggest strength.

“I learned that at a young age. It (my IQ) helped with my field awareness. It made me think more at a young age because my father would put that in my mind,” Daniels said. “I used to watch a lot of You Tube highlights when I was young and it just translated on the field when I was at the youth level.”

Along with being a junior high student in the classroom, Daniels found the time to become a student of the game before setting foot on the Cajon campus. He saw the immediate results during his varsity debut on Aug. 28 against Corona-Roosevelt.

“Before my first game, my mind started saying “You’ve got to out-think the defense. You’ve got to know the coverages and all that,’” Daniels said. “After that game, I adjusted to it (the varsity level). The game started coming back to me. It was actually almost like playing pop warner or youth football. It adjusted to me and it translated quickly to the field.”

That first varsity football evening resulted in a 259-yard outing and a 32-23 win for the Cowboys. From there, Daniels surfaced as a quarterback to watch in the 2019 class.

He followed his debut by going 12 of 17 passing for 264 yards and four touchdowns in a 56-10 trouncing of Moreno Valley-Valley View. Then came his breakout party on Homecoming night against Citrus Valley, when Daniels launched six touchdown throws in the 62-7 smashing of the Blackhawks.

The 5-foot-11, 155-pounder would lead the Cowboys to a 6-0 start and finish the season 11-2, Cajon’s best mark since 2010. Now, Daniels has not only started to train for his sophomore year, but get an early jump at marketing his name on the college football recruiting trail.

He was last seen leading his club team Rhare Breed Congo at the largest high school 7-on-7 tournament in California: Passing Down. Daniels and his Congo teammates placed in the top four among 26 teams at the prep event held on Feb. 13 at Fontana’s Ralph Lewis Sports Park. Daniels used that same right arm and brain cells to out-perform and out-think defenses.

He isn’t just building his mind by studying different schemes and finding ways to counter them, but he finds the time to closely scrutinize his two favorite NFL quarterbacks: Tom Brady and Cam Newton. Daniels said he likes Newton more because “He shows how an African-American quarterback should play in the NFL. I also like the swagger he brings to the field, knowing that nothing can stop him.”

While the Inland Empire and the California recruiting scene has received an early glimpse of Daniels’ stardom, he knows the bar is set higher than ever as he seeks his first NCAA Football Bowl Subdivision scholarship offer and CIF Southern Section title.

“The expectations are high,” Daniels said. “For the seniors, their expectations were high for us freshmen coming in because they want to work us to where they’re at. It was, overall, a really good year and we want to build on it some more.”

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Lorenzo Reyna

Lorenzo Reyna hails from the California's Central Coast, but has a bevy of experience with covering some fast-rising athletes from all over the Golden State. He's a former sports editor for The Reedley Exponent newspaper. His other credits include scout.com and nflevolution.com.
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