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Community Focused Daniel Living Out Middle School Dream

Community Focused Daniel Living Out Middle School Dream

Sitting at his desk, looking out the window of his second-floor classroom at the brand new Legacy Knoll Middle School, Chad Daniel's view is fitting for the head middle school football coach. He sits directly even with the 50-yard line of the new turf field on the backside of the property. 

Not a bad view for Daniel, who has guided the West Jackson Middle School football team, which was a combined team with LKMS this fall, to back-to-back undefeated championship seasons. It’s also not a bad view for someone who dreamt about teaching and coaching inside the community he grew up in and has loved since he was a young student. 

“I've been coaching middle school (football) for 10 years now and I feel like (winning the championships) was a culmination of a lot of years of hard work and kind of grinding through it,” Daniel said. “There were some tough years but especially, I would say the last three, we've really been able to put it together.”

Daniel’s passion for the west-side dates back to when he was a young child, graduating from Jackson County Comprehensive High School in 2008. It was there he met his wife, Taylor, who happened to be the cheerleading captain their senior year. 

Now the Daniel family — the couple has two young boys — call the community home and are doing their best to make a difference each day.

“This is a silly, cliche thing, but our life really is the Hallmark Movie,” Daniel said. “I mean, I played quarterback and she was the captain of the cheerleading team. So it’s cool to be back in the community and influencing it as adults now. I mean, obviously I teach and coach but my wife is a pediatric nurse practitioner. So she actually serves a lot of the kids in our community in her job every day. So it's really cool for us.

“It's cool for us to see the positive growth that's happening in Jackson County, and we're both really excited about it. But also to be able to raise our boys here too.”

Daniel admits he made the decision to get into teaching when he was in middle school. It was in high school he grew even closer relationships to educators who helped shape him. Following graduation, Daniel attended the University of Georgia, and made his way back to Jackson County. 

“I was at West Jackson Middle and I had teachers I really liked that, you know, showed me that they cared about me,” Daniel said. “Especially in high school I had, I'll say two in particular, coach Warren Standridge and Derrell McMenomy; she was a math teacher but also was the cheerleading coach, my wife being a cheerleader, so we got really close to her.

“So I feel like I had people who helped mold who I was. So then I just thought that was awesome and wanted to do that myself. I wanted to be able to make an impact on other people’s lives.”

Daniel served as a middle school social studies teacher at West Jackson Middle School for nine years, seven of which he spent in the same classroom where he once was a student. He admits there was a lot of emotion leaving WJMS, but the opportunity to be part of something new at LKMS was a great opportunity. 

“It was tough and I had a couple of moments in that classroom where I was like ‘Wow, this is going to be the end of an era of my life,’” Daniel said. “I was a student in that classroom at like 13 or 14 years old, then to be able to really build my career there in that building, in that classroom, was really huge for me, so it was hard to walk away from that.

“But I’m very happy with my decision and it has been fantastic. Dr. (Miriam) Ledford-Lyle has done a wonderful job here. I feel like she trusts her people, the community, staff and the kids.” 

Daniel says he enjoys working in the community where he grew up and working alongside educators who were teachers when he was a student. He hopes to one day share that connection with his students who may turn into his colleagues. 

“It’s really funny because Natalie Jones, who is here at Legacy with us now, was at West Middle too,” Daniel said. “We ended up being teammates, as teachers, but she was my seventh grade language arts teacher during her very first year teaching. So I mean, the connections have been really cool. 

“And looking into the future and thinking that down the road there could be kids who want to come back because they want to build and grow the community too, and be able to work with them as colleagues is really cool. It's a cool opportunity that I'm excited to get to and honestly I may not be too many years out from that now.”

“So I feel like I had people who helped mold who I was. So then I just thought that was awesome and wanted to do that myself. I wanted to be able to make an impact on other people’s lives.”

On the gridiron, Daniel knows he is in the prime position to shape the future of Jackson County Panther football. It isn’t a task he takes lightly. The past two seasons Daniel has led the Panthers to undefeated seasons. 

“It sounds weird, sounds cliche, but like, I'm from here and that's what I care about,” Daniel said. “I grew up in Jackson County. I mean, unfortunately, when I played in high school, we struggled. We weren't great. But I always knew that we had the ability to be better. I always wanted more for us, for this community. So now to be here on the other end and having success at the middle school levels and sending those groups on to the high school.

“And feeling like our high school program also is in a great spot right now with a very bright future, especially in the next few years. It's just cool. It's what I always wanted for this community, for the school system, and it's really cool to be able to be a small part of it on the other end.”

Along with teaching, being the advisor to the Fellowship of Christian Athletes — something he headed up for five years at WJMS and continues to do at LKMS — coaching tackle football, being a husband and a father to two young boys, Daniel has started a new journey this fall. Following the conclusion of the middle school season, Daniel is serving as an assistant coach for the new girls varsity flag football team at Jackson County High School. 

The Panthers won their first-ever game on Oct. 9. Daniel said it is a totally new experience, but said the opportunity is “a lot of fun” and is enjoying being around a new group of athletes. 

“For me, I try to involve myself and as many things as I can that can impact kids. Being in the classroom teaching social studies, I've always taught a lot of girls in the classroom, but as far as a coaching standpoint, I've only ever coached boys,” Daniel said. “So I kind of thought it was a really cool opportunity to be able to merge the two things and being able to have those relationships. 

“I've told a couple people, a lot of the girls know have me as a Coach Daniel, a social studies teacher, but now they're on the flip side as they have Coach Daniel the coach. So it's been really cool just to kind of have those relationships with some of the players and we're really athletic. So it's exciting.”

Daniel admits he doesn’t know what the future holds, but is excited about remaining in the community and serving as a coach and educator with the goal of making an impact each day.

“I can list many teachers that impacted me. I won't do that. But they know that they played a part in it. And for me now to be an adult and be at least hopefully being a positive influence on this community, that's all I want to do,” Daniel said. 

“That's what I feel like is me fulfilling my life. My goal is helping this community be successful, helping the kids in this community grow and really just seeing them hopefully go and do what we've been able to do out of this community.”