Mikey Daniel is leaving home two years earlier than expected.
The upcoming junior will depart from Brookings – where he has lived since fifth grade and his family continues to reside – in order to join the new high school football program that’s being started by IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla.
Daniel will go to school four hours a day and train the rest, jumpstarting what he hopes will be a career in major college and professional football.
“I’m just becoming a man two years earlier than I anticipated,” he said Sunday. “My level of play down there will be so much higher and more ready to play going into college.”
The 5-foot-11, 205-pound Daniel started on both sides of the ball for the Bobcats last fall, rushing for 930 yards and picking off four passes. And the summer before that he participated in – and showed well at – a couple of invitation camps as a running back. That led to an email from IMG. Then a phone call. Then a scholarship offer.
Long known for its tennis and golf training, IMG is getting more involved in football and basketball beyond helping prospects prep for combines – starting a varsity program is a part of that. Former Heisman Trophy winner (and Minnesota native) Chris Weinke will coach the first-ever IMG football team, which will operate as an independent and face schools of various sizes. Daniel is among roughly 33 players being brought in to play.
Not surprisingly, the Brookings High coaches were upset about the decision, according to Daniel. But he felt like this was an opportunity he couldn’t pass up – even if other area players have proven that you can stop through South Dakota on the way to the pros.
“The coaching staff that’s there - it’s incredible,” he said. “The training facility. And obviously the competition is going to be at a higher level than it is here.”
Daniel said that he does not have any scholarship tenders yet. He figured that South Dakota State was going to offer after team camp, but he didn’t attend it due to his impending move. He also had to turn down invitations to several other elite camps at colleges that want to see him in person - he said they’re skeptical of the level of competition he faced on film.
So off to Florida he goes, leaving next week for seven weeks of training in advance of the start of classes at IMG.
“I think this is the smartest decision,” Daniel said.
Terry Vandrovec also posts regular updates on his Twitter page.