Owen Daniels remembers one of the first times he went on camera to deliver the weather. For a guy who makes his living on the football field, it was a nerve-racking experience. Like most first-timers, he said, he butchered his performance, blaming it, in part, on the lack of a teleprompter.
But he improved with practice and discovered that his career in the NFL could open doors to experience the world of meteorology, his other passion.
Before Super Bowl XLVIII earlier this year, Daniels, a 6-foot-3, 249-pound, two-time Pro Bowl tight end who signed with the Ravens in early April, didn't strap on his pads to play in the big game, as he definitely would have preferred. Instead, he suited up for what was, to him, the next-best thing.
The eight-year NFL veteran stood alongside Al Roker on the Weather Channel. On live television, the two discussed the game-day forecast — mostly cloudy with temperatures in the low to mid-40s — and how it might affect the playing conditions.
"That was pretty awesome," Daniels said. "He's like a really, really nice guy. A real cool guy. Obviously, he loves what he does. It was cool to work with him."
Daniels, 31, has long had an affinity for meteorology and the weather — a fact many of his teammates don't know.
"I don't usually talk about it too much," he said. "But it's a pretty unique thing, being an athlete who's interested in that field."
The fascination with weather started when he was about 7 or 8 years old. Daniels grew up in Naperville, Ill., where he experienced his fair share of crazy weather, from heavy snow to thunderstorms and even some tornadoes on occasion.
Daniels said the nastier weather scared him at first, but he soon grew to love it. Nowadays, he'll go outside and look for funnel clouds if the opportunity presents itself.
On April 28, when the Miami Heat, San Antonio Spurs and Indiana Pacers all were scheduled to compete in the first round of this year's NBA playoffs, Daniels tweeted that he would be skipping the games in favor of the Weather Channel. He included the hashtag "#TornadoOutbreak."
"I remember watching the Weather Channel ever since I was a little kid. I've just been a weather nerd like that," said Daniels, who earned a degree in atmospheric and oceanic science at Wisconsin. "I wanted to study something I was interested in and wanted to know more about — something I'd have fun with. Wisconsin has a really good program. That's actually one of the reasons I chose to go up there."
Daniels found a myriad of opportunities in Madison. On the gridiron, he transitioned from quarterback to tight end and became a staple in coach Barry Alvarez's Badgers offense. On the side, he found time to work at an internship, helping deliver the weather at the local ABC affiliate.
During the 2006 Capital One Bowl, in which Wisconsin beat Auburn, 24-10, Daniels had three catches for 46 yards and a touchdown. ABC's commentators that day nicknamed him "The Weatherman."
Later that year, the Texans selected Daniels in the fourth round of the NFL draft. A career in meteorology was put on hold.
When he arrived in Houston, Daniels made an immediate impact. He played in 14 games in his first season, starting 12. He caught 34 passes, five for touchdowns. He was named to the NFL's All-Rookie team.
Daniels maintained that productivity during the near-constant changeover in Texans personnel from year to year.
During his eight years with the Texans, Daniels played under four different offensive coordinators, but still managed an average of 48 catches, 577 yards and almost four touchdowns per season.
"When [Daniels] is on the field, when he's been healthy, he's been very productive in this league," said Ravens offensive coordinator Gary Kubiak, Daniels' coach in Houston since his rookie year. "We have a chance to be very balanced offensively" in 2014.
Ravens coach John Harbaugh had a more exhilarated, but still somewhat traditional, response when Daniels officially signed with the team April 4.
"Couldn't be more excited," Harbaugh said. "His role will be plenty big. He's going to have a lot to do with our success next year. We have a lot of big plans for him."
The familiarity with Kubiak and the offense should bode well for Daniels, who signed just a one-year deal with the Ravens. And if it doesn't, Daniels said he's been brainstorming ideas — all weather related — for what he'll do when his football career is done.
Daniels said being a local meteorologist on television might not be the direct route he takes, but something sports- and weather-related would be a neat opportunity.
Or maybe even storm chasing.
"But from a safe distance, of course," he said.
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