‘There was no way I was going anywhere else’
Daniel discusses taking over as coach at Mohawk
The only thing new for Eric Daniel is the title. He’s been right where he’s wanted to be for the past six years.
Daniel was hired as Mohawk’s football coach in May, moving up from the assistant ranks to guide his alma mater.
“I always knew I wanted to. I told my wife when we got married (I wanted to coach football). She’s known, and we’ve known, it was a professional goal of mine ever since I got in education,” he said.
“Mohawk’s home, it’s always been home, so there was no way I was going anywhere else,” he said. “This was the only job I was going to apply for and try to get to be a head coach.”
The 2007 Mohawk graduate started his coaching career right out of high school, when the soon-to-be University of Toledo freshman started contacting high schools.
“I asked them if I could volunteer, because I always knew I wanted to coach. Football gave so much to me and taught me so much,” Daniel said. “I always knew I wanted to give back and that was my avenue, to coach.”
Soon, the phone rang, with Ottawa Hills coach Chris Hardman on the other end.
“He was the first guy to get back to me,” Daniel said, “and said, ‘I don’t have a volunteer job for you, but I have a paid position for you.'”
Daniel jumped at the chance, serving as the junior high coach for two years before joining the varsity staff as the co-defensive coordinator for the next two seasons — all while studying to be a special education teacher like his mother.
He then landed a job at Western Reserve, where he focused on teaching and didn’t do any coaching.
But before that first year was up, Daniel said the principal at Mohawk, who was once his chemistry teacher, contacted him about interviewing for a teaching job at his alma mater.
Daniel was hired, and also joined the football staff as co-defensive coordinator under then-coach Erik Baker. He remained the defensive coordinator when Brent Konkle took over the program the next year.
When Konkle stepped down after the 2018 season, Daniel applied for and was hired as head coach.
He inherits a combination of challenges and expectations.
The Warriors have posted four consecutive winning seasons, reaching the playoffs in 2017 and 2018.
They will also enter this fall after going 10-0 in the regular season last year en route to their first Northern 10 Athletic Conference championship.
All but one assistant — Jeremy Nutter will return to Hopewell-Loudon, where he teaches — also return from last year, giving Daniel plenty of support as he transitions to the top spot.
“I’m biased, but our staff is so good. They’re good with the kids, which is probably the most important thing. Schematically, they’re extremely intelligent, and I’m sure Brent would say that,” Daniel said.
His brother, Carl Daniel, who shared defensive coordinator duties with him for Daniel’s first three years, returns as defensive coordinator. Co-offensive coordinators are Zach Hawkins and Brett Wiedemann, while the other returning assistants are Nate Weinandy and Eric Wilfer.
Jake Moyer, a former coach at Mohawk and Upper Sandusky, also joins the staff.
“We’re a pretty tight-knit group. My goal, honestly, was to keep them around,” Daniel said. “I don’t know if I’d have wanted the job if I didn’t get those guys (to stay). They’re so incredible to work with, and they’re a lot smarter than I am.”
After six years on staff, Daniel is also very familiar with the players.
He said that is a huge advantage as he becomes head coach, but he added he also knows the challenges ahead for a team that graduated 18 starters after last season.
“We’ve kind of stressed to our kids how great of an opportunity it is for them to make their own imprint. I told them some people have said it’s going to be a down year, (but) it doesn’t have to be. You can either prove people right … or you can prove people wrong,” he said.
“We’ve got a great opportunity for our juniors and seniors that haven’t necessarily played a lot of varsity football, but it’s not a negative if you take it and run with it and treat it like an opportunity,” he said.
So far, Daniel said the players have responded well, embracing the combination of work, intra-squad competition and fun the staff has put into summer workouts.
And he expects that to continue once practices start.
“I’ve always thought it’s easy to take kids for granted and all the effort they give you, but you know what, they give so much, especially our kids. I’m obviously biased, but they work their tails off,” Daniel said.
“I’m very comfortable with the kids and the families,” he said, “which is huge to me because Mohawk is everything to me. It always has been.”