Roo happy to bring up the rear as Hammond Skyhawks go for seventh-straight state title

ainelson@ thestate.comNovember 14, 2012 

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— While Hammond continues to build its tradition as a football powerhouse, the Daniels’ family football legacy draws to a close this week.

Richard “Roo” Daniels, the Skyhawks’ senior center, is the youngest of three Daniels brothers who have been part of the Hammond football juggernaut.

On Saturday, as Hammond contends for its state-record seventh consecutive title in the SCISA Class 3A championship game, Roo Daniels looks to secure another family championship ring.

If the Skyhawks defeat Augusta Christian at Charlie W. Johnson Stadium, the Daniels’ baby brother will be the only one to earn four championship rings.

“It was a dream of mine, and it’s been a lot of fun to follow my older brothers because both of them shared nothing but support,” Roo said.

Eldest brother Chris was the center when the Skyhawks kicked off their title streak in 2006.

When he graduated, Chris passed on the starting center position – and jersey No. 50 – to middle brother Justin. Justin was the Skyhawks’ center for the 2007 and 2008 title seasons.

“After Chris graduated and Justin decided to wear No. 50, I didn’t have a choice. I couldn’t be the one to ruin it,” said Roo, who is breaking with the other Daniels tradition of attending the University of Georgia. The youngest brother was offered a full football scholarship and committed to Wofford over the weekend.

“It’s an honor to be able to bring up the rear. No matter how this season ends up, my two brothers have been so proud of me all this time,” he said.

All three have been captains for the Skyhawks. Roo, like Chris, has been selected for the SCISA Shrine Bowl team. Justin was a North-South all-star.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to have been able to coach them,” said Skyhawks coach Erik Kimrey, himself the second of four brothers.

The Daniels succession at center was as unexpected as Hammond’s football dynasty, Kimrey said.

“I mean, if you had told me Justin was going to start for us at center, I don’t know what I’d have thought,” the coach said of the middle brother, who was a cross country runner in the season before joining the football team.

But Roo’s older brothers – and offensive line coach Jeff Barnes – tagged him for greatness as a middle schooler.

“Roo was naturally bigger than all of them growing up,” Barnes said. “We knew when Justin was done, that we had a center coming up.”

“I remember telling his mom, when Roo was an eighth grader, that he would be starting for us as a freshman. And she said, ‘Is he ready for that?’ I said, ‘It’s his.’ And he’s done it.”

Though they have filled the same role for the Skyhawks, the Daniels brothers had distinct paths for success.

“All three of them are different from each other. All gifted in different ways,” Kimrey said.

“If there’s one word to describe them it would be dependable. We’ve built our offensive line around that family for nine years,” Barnes said.

Chris and Justin have continued to support the Skyhawks and their younger brother over the years.

“We might get into arguments about who was the better center or who had the best state championship team, but at the end of the day, we know we are all fortunate to be a part of this,” Roo said. “It’s extremely special.”

With the Daniels era coming to an end, the coaches say the team is better for having the Daniels brothers along for the journey.

“It’s the whole family,” Kimrey said. “Their dad brings us breakfast on Saturdays when we’re watching film, they have kids sleeping over at their house every Friday night after games. Just the whole family has really bought into what we do.”

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