Wayne Daniels spent much of his youth in Oakland playing basketball and dreaming of a career in the sport.
It wasn't until he moved to Kilgore, Texas, that he began playing football.
Now, nine years after playing for the first time as a high school freshman, Daniels is an All-American defensive end for Texas Christian, preparing for the biggest game of his career — against an unusually large opponent.
On Saturday in the 97th Rose Bowl game, the 6-foot-2, 250-pound Daniels will go up against Wisconsin tackle Gabe Carimi, the 6-7, 327-pound Outland Trophy winner.
"I can't make a big deal out of it," said Daniels, who acknowledged that the matchup offers pro scouts an important evaluation opportunity.
Daniels played in nine games for TCU as a freshman in 2006 and then redshirted the next year to mature physically and mentally. After starting every game in 2009, he took on a leading role for a unit that could finish as college football's top-ranked defense for the third consecutive season.
Daniels' 12 tackles for losses were two more than he had in three previous seasons. His 6 1/2 sacks equaled his career total.
The departure of All-American defensive end Jerry Hughes, a first-round NFL draft pick last April, afforded Daniels an opportunity to grow.
"With all the guys that had graduated off last year's defense, we were a little curious about how this group was going to" come together, TCU defensive coordinator Dick Bumpas said. "But he stepped up and is a great leader."
On the scene
Former USC coach John Robinson attended Wisconsin's practice. Former Notre Dame player Rudy Ruettiger was at TCU's practice. Fresno State Coach Pat Hill and former Miami coach Randy Shannon attended both workouts.