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No weight on shoulders of Bull Dogs two-sport star

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NOT only was defensive end Brice McDaniel the Columbus North football team’s best pass rusher in 2013, he was pretty much their only sack man.

McDaniel, who returns for his junior year, had three of the team’s five sacks on the season.

It’s obviously an area where the Bull Dogs must improve in 2014.


So it figured that McDaniel would hit the weights, gain 20 pounds and be even more of a force on the edge.

Not so fast.

McDaniel does double duty as the North sectional champion baseball team’s first baseman and he already has committed to Purdue in that sport.

An extra 20 pounds probably wasn’t going to be in McDaniel’s best interest.

That’s when Columbus North’s football coaching staff stepped to the plate. McDaniel was told to stay trim and move back to linebacker.

“I always had played linebacker until last year, and we didn’t really have a rush end,” McDaniel said. “So I was up to 217 last year, but for baseball I dropped to 195.”

He is back to 205 pounds, but that’s probably as heavy as he will get this season.

“I easily could have bulked up,” McDaniel said. “But that would have hurt me in the long run.”

North head football coach Tim Bless encourages his players to participate in more than one sport, and he wasn’t about to go back on that word.

Would he tell most of his players to hit the weight room hard and bulk up? “By and large, yes,” he said. “But I don’t look at Brice as a typical football player. We respect that he is a baseball first, football second kid.”

Bless said another huge factor works in McDaniel’s, and the North football team’s, favor.

“Success breeds success,” Bless said.

McDaniel hit .388 for the Bull Dogs in baseball and was one of the area’s top defensive players. After recovering from a ulnar collateral ligament strain during the baseball season, McDaniel returned to help the Bull Dogs to a huge late-season run and the sectional title.

Bless loves that winning experience along with the toughness to fight through an injury.

He also loves McDaniel’s aggressive play.

Playing North’s “Will” linebacker position, McDaniel still will have the chance to line up at the line of scrimmage and be a pass rushing force.

“He’s an athletic kid who is great at blitzing,” Bless said.

McDaniel’s dad, Ben McDaniel, is North’s baseball coach and he said his son shouldn’t worry too much about bulking up.

“I am sure they are doing good by Brice,” McDaniel said of the North football coaching staff. “But I hope they use Brice wherever he best fits the team. He has slimmed down a little, but in the end, Brice still has got some mass to put on for baseball. I am OK with him bulking up as long as he puts in the excellent work on flexibility.”

Just as Bless wants McDaniel to play baseball, his father loves that he plays football.

“I am thrilled he plays two sports,” the elder McDaniel said. “As a dad, there is not a better feeling than to sit in the stands and watch your son play on Friday nights. I still get the chills, just watching him for a change. Football has played a big part of making Brice the athlete he has become and the young man that he is. It shaped his work ethic.

“Does he miss out on some things playing football? Yes, he misses time on fundamentals, timing and mechanics. But, honestly, I love his interaction with the other (football) coaches.”

Brice McDaniel said it was tough at times during the summer because he would be in “baseball mode” going to a tournament before returning to Columbus to pick up football drills. “My body was worn out,” he said.

Now, though, it is football all the time.

“I don’t think I am behind (the other players),” he said. “I learn things quick.”

Does he feel that the football team will experience the kind of success he enjoyed with the baseball team?

“I think we can do some special things,” he said.

Bless said if Brice McDaniel continues to work hard, he will draw scholarship attention as a football player as well.

Would he consider it?

“In the end, it is his choice,” Ben McDaniel said. “He has to decide what he wants for his future.

“But Brice has a pretty level head on his shoulders. I think he is looking past his four years of college.”

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