CALGARY — DaVaris Daniels has lost the element of surprise. When defences around the CFL face the Calgary Stampeders in 2017, they'll scheme with last season's rookie of the year in mind.
From practice roster player to scoring a touchdown in the Grey Cup game and winning the league's rookie award, Daniels' inaugural season was meteoric.
"Out of nowhere," is how Calgary head coach Dave Dickenson describes it.
With wide receivers Joe West and Greg Wilson both out injured eight games into 2016, Daniels literally took the ball and ran with it for 885 yards and nine touchdowns the rest of the season, plus another two TDs in the playoffs.
His first touchdown in his second start Aug. 28 was a 76-yard reception from quarterback Bo Levi Mitchell.
"It took two injuries to get him on the field," Dickenson recalled Tuesday at Stampeder training camp.
"A pretty amazing story that he was the third guy at that position and to take it and run like he did was impressive."
Daniels' football career was stalled prior to signing with Calgary just over a year ago. He was passed over in the 2015 NFL draft after opting out of his final year of eligibility at Notre Dame.
Daniels got looks from the Minnesota Vikings and New England Patriots, but didn't gain a foothold with either team.
So 24-year-old from Vernon Hills, Ill., returns for his sophomore CFL season feeling a lot more confident about his place in football.
"This year I came in a lot more comfortable knowing my spot on the team, my role for this team," Daniels said. "I just want to come in and be the playmaker that I was in the last season."
He's added a few pounds of muscle onto his six-foot-one frame to be ready for extra attention from opposing backs.
Daniels says he worked out in the off-season with father Phillip, a 15-year NFL defensive back now on the Philadelphia Eagles coaching staff.
"I made a point to myself that in order to play all 18 games, I have to get my body right and endure all the hitting and all the things that come with that," Daniels said.
"Felt like I had to get a little bit bigger, a little bit stronger to prepare myself for the season."
Good luck to defences trying to contain Daniels, says Stampeder teammate and mentor Marquay McDaniel.
"Teams are definitely going to be scheming for him," McDaniel said. "But he can run every route. He can run deep, but also run those intermediate routes.
"He can do everything. He's a big receiver. He's fast. He can run routes and he can break tackles. And he's smart. He blocks good too. There's not really much he can't do."
Daniels says he's is getting tips from McDaniel and receiver Kamar Jorden on beating coverage.
"Not always using speed. Young guys like to just run fast and think that's going to get them open," Daniels said.
"There's a lot of special things you can do with your mind and your body while you're running your routes just to get open. It's a lot of little things I've learned that should help me this season."
Added Dickenson: "Every time you have success as a rookie, other teams will look hard at your tendencies and try to learn new ways to defend you.
"We know they'll give potentially give DaVaris a little bit more attention that could open up other things for our offence. He's a big part of our offence. Excited about what he'll do with a full 18 games."
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Donna Spencer, The Canadian Press