A few hours after Kash Daniel’s solid performance in Saturday’s Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio, the phone rang with one last recruiting call from a college coach.
It was Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh on the other line, and he was offering Daniel a scholarship to play for the Wolverines. Kentucky’s Mr. Football — a UK commitment since July — told Harbaugh that his plans were already set.
“I appreciate it, Coach, but I’m moving in tomorrow,” Daniel said to the Michigan coach, who wished him good luck and said he hoped he had a great career with the Cats.
“It’s great, and it’s a blessing,” Daniel told the Herald-Leader. “But I gave Coach (Mark) Stoops and the Kentucky Wildcats my commitment on July 4 and I’m staying with that no matter what. Even if Nick Saban called and said, ‘You’ve got an offer from Alabama.’”
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Daniel said the highlight of his week — along with sharing the national stage with fellow UK commitments Drake Jackson and Landon Young — was talking to the other players and hearing the stories of their paths to becoming Army All-Americans.
“They were all kind of shocked about mine,” he said.
The all-star game and last-minute call from Harbaugh formed the final chapter in what was indeed an improbable college recruitment.
Little known outside of eastern Kentucky and with no college scholarship offers to his name at this time last year, Daniel blew up on the spring camp circuit, committed to UK in July and led Paintsville High School to a perfect regular season in the fall, earning the state’s Mr. Football honor in the process.
Daniel was a standout performer at last week’s Army Bowl and the practices that preceded it. He was named his team’s No. 1 defensive player after one of the mid-week practice days, then recorded three tackles (and one tackle for loss) in the game itself, which the West won 37-9.
Rivals.com national analyst Mike Farrell named Daniel one of the week’s top “Lunch Pail” performers, reserved for the players who do the dirty work that doesn’t always make the box score.
“I think my performance was really good considering the competition where I come from is not as good as what I was seeing this whole week,” Daniel said. “I went up there with the mindset that, ‘I know these guys are the best in the nation, but there’s a reason why they chose me as well. Just go up there and compete your heart out, and good things will happen.’
“And they did.”
Daniel spoke Monday afternoon from UK’s campus, where he arrived the night before as an early enrollee for the spring semester. His first college class is Wednesday, and the self-proclaimed “weight-room freak” said he can’t wait to get acquainted with his new teammates and the Wildcats strength and conditioning staff in the coming days.
He’s been told that he’ll be practicing with the second team this spring and is projected as an immediate contributor for the 2016 season.
Another reminder of why he chose UK was waiting for him when he got to his dorm Sunday night.
Defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot — the coach who first told Daniel that he had a scholarship offer from his home-state school back in April — was there to greet him.
“It’s a family atmosphere,” Daniel said. “It just shows that people care a lot here. That’s the main thing I was looking for in my college recruitment.”