Former Tech running back P.J. Daniels was one of the first players selected by the Ravens on the second day of the 2006 NFL draft. Daniels was taken in the fourth round of the draft with a compensation pick. He was the No. 132 overall pick for the Ravens, but as soon as he was drafted he knew it was business. “It’s a working atmosphere. Competition is always there. You can’t really describe where it’s supposed to be fun; it is business. As long as you do what you have to do, you’ll continue to stay in the NFL,” Daniels said.
Once Daniels made the team, he showed his capabilities in several preseason games and began the season as the third running back behind veterans Jamal Lewis and Mike Anderson. In the third preseason game, against the Minnesota Vikings, Daniels carried the ball five times for 19 yards, his best yardage per carry of the season at 3.8. In the fourth game, Daniels got 13 attempts for 34 yards. Unfortunately, the former Tech back did not see action during the regular season despite being active for every game. Daniels did show improvement. After fumbling twice in the first preseason game, losing one, Daniels did not drop the ball in any of his next 25 carries over the two games.
One of Daniels’ goals throughout his playing career was to make it to the NFL; but now that he’s there, he has higher goals. “I have bigger aspirations. I want to do more than just [make it to the NFL]. I made it here, so that dream is gone. I made a new dream, so now I want to break records and just enjoy it, but not too much. I just want to enjoy the competitive side of it and just go from there,” Daniels said.
Unfortunately, those dreams have been put on hold. Despite not seeing any action during the 2006 season, Daniels was listed as the back-up running back in 2007 behind Willis McGahee, who came to the Ravens from the Buffalo Bills. Daniels was unable to go after an injury during the preseason that placed him on the injured reserve list.
“I haven’t had a chance to play with the Ravens. Last year I injured myself and the injury held me out for the season,” Daniels said.
After long-time Head Coach Brian Billick was fired and the Ravens brought in John Harbaugh to take over, Daniels had to prove himself again. Daniels impressed the new coaching staff and was listed as the backup prior to the 2008 season as well. “It took a while; we had to open up to [Harbaugh]. He has to understand his players, but we don’t mind going the extra mile for him,” Daniels said.
The concept of working hard is not new to Daniels. The former Tech star was recruited by former head coach George O’Leary, but not offered a scholarship. As a walk-on in the Chan Gailey era, Daniels was listed as the seventh running back on the depth chart. “I knew how to work hard [in the NFL], but [Atlanta] is where I learned how to work really hard,” Daniels said.
Playing behind former running backs Tony Hollings, Sidney Ford, Jimmy Dixon, Jermaine Hatch and Gordon Clinkscale, Daniels found playing time hard to come by his freshman year. The most action he saw was against Virginia when he broke 100 yards between rushing and receiving and scored his second touchdown of the year.
Daniels had his best season at Tech as a sophomore in 2003. His first season as a starter saw the workhorse finish with 1,447 yards and the fourth highest single season total in ACC history behind three NFL backs Thomas Jones, Don McCauley and Lamont Jordan. Daniels led the ACC in rushing that year, just the third Tech back to accomplish the feat. Daniels also ran for 307 yards and four touchdowns against Tulsa in the Humanitarian Bowl. The record for bowl games still stands.
Daniels went to finish his career with 3,300 rushing yards, 360 receiving yards and 26 touchdowns before going to the NFL. While at Tech, Daniels also graduated with a Management degree with a Minor in Chemistry. But academics and football are not what Daniels misses most about the school. “I miss how I would go about myself, speaking to everyone, because that’s the type of person I am, an outgoing person,” Daniels said.
Unfortunately, a torn labrum landed the running back on injured reserve again. As Daniels undergoes treatment and rehab for his shoulder, there is no denying he would rather be in Baltimore. But while he is rehabbing, the running back has to go through a very tough schedule.
“My treatment’s usually around 10. I wake up, get breakfast, do a small workout and head over around 10. Treatment is from 10:30 to 12…I try to work out and study. That’s the main thing, study my film and study my plays… I have to make sure I maintain that same level so that I’m a step ahead of everybody when I get back,” Daniels said.
The Ravens are sitting at 2-2 with a rookie quarterback in Joe Flacco and a veteran defense. While they try and regroup after a fourth quarter loss to the Titans, their pre-season back-up running back cannot wait to get back to the team. “I enjoy playing for the Ravens; just to be a part of this team is great. You got the Ray Lewises, Ed Reeds, etc. We have lots of players, and I think every individual has their own characteristics, and they bring different things to the table. It’s great to be around all of those guys,” Daniels said.