B.J. Daniels had waited more than eight years to get significant playing time as a quarterback in a real game, and the Seattle Dragons quarterback certainly seized the opportunity when coach Jim Zorn called on him last Saturday.
With the Dragons trailing 17-3 at halftime in St. Louis, and with just two first downs in the first half, Zorn decided to bench starter Brandon Silvers for Daniels. The coach was hoping for a spark. Instead, he got a fire. Daniels immediately rallied the Dragons, using his feet and his arm to get the offense going.
The rally fell short as the BattleHawks intercepted a pass late, hanging on for a 23-16 win that dropped Seattle to 1-3. But it was still a great afternoon for Daniels.
“It was a lot of fun,” he said. “It all started coming back to me a little bit. I just wanted to give our team an opportunity to win.”
Because he did that, Zorn has said Daniels will see playing time Saturday at Houston (4-0), the only undefeated team in the XFL. Zorn has not announced whether he will start Daniels or Silvers, but it’s Daniels who has the momentum.
He completed 5 of 10 passes for 100 yards and a touchdown. He also ran for 84 yards on seven carries, with a long of 35. It was the type of production he had as a college star at South Florida.
He threw for 8,433 yards and ran for 2,038 at South Florida and remains second in Big East Conference career total yards and would likely have set conference records for passing yards and total yards had he not broken his ankle during his senior season in 2012.
Daniels, 30, has been looking for an opportunity to play ever since, including three seasons with the Seahawks, who at one point converted him to a receiver.
Now that he has that opportunity, Daniels said nothing will change for him. He studies and prepares hard every week, something that was instilled in him when he was with the Seahawks and a member of the 2014 and 2015 Super Bowl teams.
“When I was with Seattle, I had an opportunity to learn from Russell (Wilson) and Tarvaris (Jackson) and they really hammered learning the playbook and focusing on getting better,” he said. “Tarvaris took me under his wing and he probably didn’t get to play as much as he probably would have liked with Russell being the starter, but he taught me to be a pro, to be accountable and just learn and do what you are supposed to do each week.”
With just a 10-game regular season, the Dragons know how big this game is for them. Daniels and linebacker Steven Johnson, the XFL leader in tackles with 40, have said it is a must-win game. But stopping a two-game losing slide will not be easy against Houston, which leads the league in scoring by a long way. P.J. Walker is the early leader to league MVP, leading the league in passing with 987 yards in coach June Jones’ run-and-shoot offense.
Walker was the quarterback Jones wanted on his team. Walker played in his first college game for Temple against Southern Methodist, which was coached by Jones.
“He was kind of unbelievable and I remembered him from that,” Jones said.
Jones said all the right things about Seattle, saying the Dragons “were well-coached, do a lot of good things on defense and we’ll have to play really well to beat them, I can tell you that.”
But what quarterback will his team face? Daniels said he is not worrying about the answer.
“I am perfectly fine with whatever coach Jim Zorn wants to do,” Daniels said. “Both Brandon and I will be ready to go.”