James Daniels played high school football in Warren, Ohio, less than 50 miles away from where Mitch Trubisky won the Ohio Mr. Football award as Mentor's quarterback.
"We played his team in the first round of the playoffs, and he just tore us apart," Daniels said of Mentor's 2012 victory over Harding in which Trubisky threw five touchdown passes and ran for a score.
Daniels tracked Trubisky's career through North Carolina and his first season with the Bears because he liked to see how the quarterback who hammered his high school team was faring.
He won't have to watch from afar anymore.
Daniels now will be charged with helping to protect Trubisky after the Bears selected the Iowa offensive lineman 39th overall in the second round of the NFL draft. He can't wait to get started.
"I'm real excited," Daniels said. "If you would have told me six years ago that I'd be blocking for him I would say you're lying. That's the craziest thing I ever heard. But it means a lot to me."
The pick was one of two to boost the Bears offense Friday night. The Bears also traded back into the second round to pick Memphis wide receiver Anthony Miller at No. 51 overall, sending a 2019 second-round pick and one of their fourth-round picks this year, No. 105 overall, to the Patriots.
The 6-foot-3, 306-pound Daniels started at center the last two seasons for the Hawkeyes, but he has the versatility to play guard.
He fills an immediate need for the Bears, who declined veteran left guard Josh Sitton's option this winter. Bears general manager Ryan Pace said Daniels would start out competing at left guard, and Cody Whitehair would remain at center. But the move gives the Bears versatility on a line that also includes left tackle Charles Leno, right guard Kyle Long and right tackle Bobby Massie.
Pace said new offensive line coach Harry Hiestand was passionate about Daniels, an athletic player he said is quick off the ball and plays with good pad level and technique. Daniels is also just 20 years old, and Pace said the Bears think he has growth potential. He already added 10 to 15 pounds onto his frame for the NFL scouting combine, and his agility didn't appear to be affected.
"We feel there's still a lot of upside ahead, as young as he is," Pace said. "You see these offensive linemen kind of get caught in awkward positions. He has the ability to recover and maintain his balance. Some guys awkwardly go down in those moments, he doesn't do that."
NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock had Daniels ranked as the 17th best prospect in the draft because of the sound technique molded at Iowa that has turned him into an excellent run blocker and consistent pass blocker. He is the 17th Iowa offensive lineman to be drafted since 2000 under coach Kirk Ferentz.
"Whenever you're watching Iowa offensive linemen, you know you're going to get a technique-proficient guy," Mayock said. "That is what it is with James Daniels. A big, square dude. Coached very well.
"In the case of Daniels, not only is his technique good, but he's a big kid with physical ability. I think he can play all three interior offensive line positions, but being a center, for me, gives him more value."
An honorable mention All-Big Ten selection in 2017, Daniels anchored a line that helped Iowa average 190.2 passing yards and 139.2 rushing yards per game. He played in the final 12 games of the season after missing the first with injury. He also missed two games in 2016 with knee issues.
He said doctors didn't find issues with his knees during the combine and his pre-draft visits.
"All my trainers and doctors I talked to said they didn't have a problem," Daniels said. "It didn't scare them at all."
Daniels, who also lived in DeKalb, Ill., for a time, comes from a family with NFL experience. His father, LeShun Daniels, played offensive line for the Vikings in 1997. His brother, LeShun Daniels Jr., is a running back who played in four games with the Redskins in 2017.
He described himself as hard-working, athletic and young. He said he has watched film on Eagles center Jason Kelce and tries to model his game after the veteran.
"The thing about Kelce is he's undersized, so in pass protection, the way he uses his hands and plays with leverage, he has to do that, or he wouldn't be in the NFL," Daniels said. "He's not big enough or strong enough to have bad technique and be effective. The run game too, the way he plays with leverage and hand placement and pad level is amazing.
"Also, he's a great athlete too. I can't say I'm as athletic as him, but we're on the same path, and for those reasons, I feel like we're similar."
Daniels had to sit through the first round Thursday and the first six picks of the second round Friday before the Bears scooped him up, but he said he was picked where he expected. ESPN shared a clip on Twitter of Daniels taking the Bears' call.
Daniels choked up and wiped at his eyes.
"Yeah," he said into the phone, "I'm fired up."