‘Life-changing experience’: LSU’s Jayden Daniels experiences whirlwind since winning Heisman Trophy

PHOTO BY: LSU athletics

LSU quarterback Jayden Daniels didn’t have to wait long to meet his new fraternity brothers.

In the moments that passed after he was announced the winner of Saturday’s Heisman Trophy, Daniels had the opportunity to meet college football royalty in a series of handshakes – and embraces – with the former Heisman winners on hand in the Lincoln Center in New York.

That meant breaking through his awe-struck state to shake hands with two-time Heisman winner Archie Griffin of Ohio State. There were also indelible moments with former Michigan great Desmond Howard and Texas’ Ricky Williams.

“It was surreal,” Daniels said on Tuesday’s Paul Finebaum Show. “It’s surreal to see them and them welcoming me in the fraternity they’re in. They welcomed me with open arms. They were all happy for me. It was awesome.

“From that moment on it’s been life changing,” Daniels said. “I’ve been doing interviews and different stuff like that. People reaching out to me, congratulating me. Everywhere I go, I’m getting noticed by everybody. I keep a low profile, but I’m blessed to be in a position like this.”

The perks of his new-found status as college football’s top player haven’t have many any boundaries.

One of the more did-that-just-happen exchanges for Daniels came from a text message from Heisman winner Lamar Jackson, one of his idols, now the quarterback of the Baltimore Ravens.

He also receive congratulations from California boyhood pals – current NFL quarterbacks Bryce Young, the 2021 Heisman winner, of the Carolina Panthers and CJ Stroud, the third-place finisher in the ’22 Heisman race, of the Houston Texans.

“It hit me when Lamar Jackson texted me, congratulating and telling me welcome to the family,” Daniels said “I’m going to enjoy this time. I’m going to enjoy this with my family and sometimes in January, go and start training for the NFL Draft. I’ll be ready and put this page behind me and move forward because I’ve got a lot more to accomplish.”

Jackson’s victory in the 2016 Heisman race squarely put the award on Daniels’ radar. He went from a standout quarterback at Cajon High in San Bernardino, California to a prosperous three years at Arizona State until transferring to LSU and playing his final two seasons for coach Brian Kelly.

Daniels helped the Tigers to a 10-4 record, SEC Western Division title, SEC Championship Game and Citrus Bowl in his first season. He led the Tigers to a 9-3 mark this season, directing the nation’s No. 1 offense to a berth in the Jan. 1 ReliaQuest Bowl which he has not indicated he’ll play in.

“I gave college football everything I had, especially LSU,” Daniels said. “I poured my heart into this university. I’m excited as the future moves on for my next journey and adventure. I love being here, I love building relationships in college football. Those are the kind you don’t get back.

“This past season was fun,” Daniels said. “Obviously we didn’t have the team success we wanted to, but we still have a chance to go out there and end the season with a bang and winning 10 games. I was just happy we’re in a position to set LSU up for the future.”

Daniels piled up 503 first-place votes and 2,029 total points to outdistance Washington quarterback Michael Penix Jr. (1,701 points), Oregon quarterback Bo Nix (885 points) and Ohio State wide receiver Marvin Harrison Jr. (352 points).

Daniels won four of the six voting regions and added the Heisman to his treasure trove of national awards that also included the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm, Davey O’Brien National Quarterback and Walter Camp Player of the Year plaudits. He’s also been named Player of the Year by The Associated Press and Sporting News and earned first team All-America honors from four different news organizations.

Daniels compiled 4,946 total yards and 50 touchdowns in 2023. His 208 passer rating is an NCAA record for a single season and he led the nation with 90 plays for 20-plus yards (70 passing, 20 rushing).

“It was always something I dreamt about,” Daniels said. “It was a goal of mine since Lamar Jackson won it. From there, it was like I want to win the Heisman. To be up there, and parade that trophy, it just meant a lot to me and everything I worked for to get to this point.”

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