Iowa Football

James Daniels knew exactly where he was going when he picked the Hawkeyes

The Ohio native was going to the NFL, and he believes Iowa's structure got him to the Chicago Bears

Iowa offensive linemen Dalton Ferguson (76) and James Daniels (78) participate in a drill during an open practice at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines on Saturday, April 11, 2015. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)
Iowa offensive linemen Dalton Ferguson (76) and James Daniels (78) participate in a drill during an open practice at Valley Stadium in West Des Moines on Saturday, April 11, 2015. (Cliff Jette/The Gazette)

James Daniels had 16 offers when he committed to the Hawkeyes in 2014.

His dad, LeShun Daniels Sr., went to Ohio State. Daniels is from Warren, Ohio. James Daniels said no to Ohio State. He said no to Alabama. Auburn, Miami (Fla.), Michigan, Michigan State and Penn State offered Daniels. He said no to all of those blue bloods.

Instead, James Daniels joined his older brother, LeShun Jr., to the University of Iowa. It all worked out for James Daniels.

The NFL was the goal, and Daniels picked Iowa to help get him there. It all worked out. OK sure, Daniels wasn’t drafted in the first round, when he would’ve greeted cameras while wearing a plush red robe with black-and-white pajamas (Daniels made the ESPN broadcast for maybe 30 seconds, and that was what he wore).

Daniels didn’t have to wait long in his pajamas on Friday night. The Ohio native went to the Chicago Bears with the 39th pick. Weirdly, Daniels is the first Hawkeye the Bears have drafted since 1990.

According to Spotrac.com, Daniels is in line for a three-year deal worth nearly $7 million dollars with a signing bonus of $3.1 million.


Daniels, who’ll leave Iowa with a year of eligibility remaining, is all about the inherent advantage of playing in Iowa’s prostyle offense compared to run and pass spread offenses. There are more Iowas (prostyle) in the NFL than there are Louisvilles (spread). There just are.

“It’s how structured the program is,” Daniels said. “Having to be places on time. The weightroom, how (strength and conditioning) coach (Chris) Doyle runs the entire weightroom. Body weights. There are a whole bunch of colleges in the NCAA that don’t have mandatory body weights. Having to be within a four-pound limit of a goal weight, that takes a lot of discipline.

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“Things like that transfer over to the NFL. That’s why NFL scouts like Iowa so much, because of how structured the program is here.”

How does that manifest itself on the field? How does it help? Daniels had an answer for that, too. (The NFL draft process is all about answers.)

“(NFL scouts) know that Iowa linemen are going to be tough, smart and physical,” Daniels said. “At spread schools, they don’t run the ball straight at people. They can beat people with space. At Iowa, we have to run the ball at you, we have to pass protect on third down. Other schools have the athletes where their offensive linemen don’t have to do that.”

At the combine, a scout asked Daniels to draw a basic run play. He drew 21 personnel. That’s a running back, a fullback, a tight end and two wide receivers.

“The scout was like, ‘Wow, I’ve never seen that done before,” Daniels said. “That was pretty cool.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8256; marc.morehouse@thegazette.com

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