December 5, 2008
By John Philip Wyllie
Playing in the same backfield as mega-talented Tony Jefferson it is difficult not to be overshadowed, but Eastlake running back Daniel Diaz has proven to be a consistent and reliable ball carrier and a sure handed pass receiver for the Mesa League champion Titans. While the Stanford-bound Jefferson gets most of the media attention and the accolades Diaz just quietly goes about his business contributing to what has been a very potent offense. When the Titans face off against Helix High tonight for the right to play for a CIF championship title Diaz will be in his familiar position along side of Jefferson and Randall Williams.
“Daniel is a good all around player for us and he can do it all,” according to Titan head coach, John McFadden. “He can catch the ball and he runs the ball well. He has also learned how to block and he is getting really good at that. We have a lot of good players on this team but he is one of those guys that has made a spot his and he’s done a good job with it. Daniel is a team player. If we needed him to go both ways I am sure he could do that too.”
After gaining a first round bye by virtue of their impressive 9-2 regular season record the Titans opened the postseason playoffs with a 42-14 shellacking of Patrick Henry. They head into tonight’s game with plenty of confidence and riding an eight-game winning streak.
Diaz has contributed to that success by amassing 160 yards on the ground and another 219 through the air. With opposing teams keying on the running of Jefferson, Diaz plays an integral part in the Titans short passing game. He has averaged 14.6 average yards per catch after hauling in short passes out of the backfield from quarterback Deangelo Barksdale.
Football is a family affair for Diaz.
“My Dad played football when he was young and my older brother actually played for Bonita, our biggest rival before we moved over here. When we played Bonita he sat over on our side and supported me from the Eastlake side,” Diaz said.
As the season has progressed he has become more and more of a factor.
“This is my first year on varsity so at the beginning of the season I didn’t know everything as well as I should have. I became more confident as I learned where I was supposed to run. The speed of the varsity game has slowed down for me.”
Diaz realizes that as long as the uniquely talented Jefferson is on his team he is going to be the focal point of most of the media attention.
“I’m fine with that. Tony is very good so he deserves it. He’s a good guy. I do lot of blocking for him and for Randall, but we all block for each other.”
In the spring Diaz will compete for a position on Eastlake’s perennially powerful baseball team. He considers himself a dual sport athlete not favoring either one over the other. When he is not training for football or baseball you will find Diaz buried in the books. An honor student with a 4.2 G.P.A. he is the epitome of a scholar-athlete. Naturally, college is in his future once he graduates in the spring of 2010.
“I haven’t really looked into colleges much, but once football is over I’ll start doing that. I enjoy math, science and history a lot, so I’ll probably major in one of those.”