Class of 2011
When you list the true greats of Athens High School football players, Jerry Daniel's name stands alongside all the legends that have played for the Golden Eagles. The 2011 Limestone County Sports Hall of Fame inductee was a four- year letterman for Coach Ferman Elmore and helped guide AHS to a 31-6-3 record during his career. By the time he finished his high school career in 1955, Daniel would become one of the most decorated players in Golden Eagles history.
Daniel twice was named to the All-Tennessee Valley Conference, All-State and All-Southern teams. He earned the highest of all individual honors his senior season as he was named High School All-American. Daniel set numerous individual school records while at Athens including most touchdowns scored in a season (19 twice) and career (41).
Daniel says that he was very fortunate to play during the era he did. "I had some great teammates who were good football players. Coach Elmore was a great coach. We had some really good teams during my four years at Athens High School. I was just lucky to play during a period when there were a lot of good players coming through Athens High," said Daniel.
While Daniel speaks modestly of his high school playing days, folks that saw him play, say Daniel was about as good as there was during 1950's at Athens High School. Coach Elmore's son Jimmy says his dad never hesitated when describing the career of Daniel. "My dad said more than once that pound for pound, Jerry Daniel was the best player he ever coached. Although Jerry played running back, my dad said that he was such a good athlete that he could have put him anywhere on the field and Jerry would have been outstanding," said Elmore.
Daniel was the second of three brothers who played football at Athens High School. Older brother Carrel would be the first Daniel brother to play at Athens and while the youngest Terry would follow Jerry into the Golden Eagles program. "Carrel was a better football player than me and Terry was the best athlete in our family. We all received our football training at Mr. Bill Hatchett's house. It seemed like just about everyone in our neighborhood who would go on and play football at Athens High, played in Mr. Hatchett's big ole backyard when they were kids. I remember guys like Tommy Woodroof, Julian Newman, Andy Nelson, Myron Hargrove, Brub Hamilton, Sam Mitchell, Paul Hargrove, and others who would be my future high school teammates playing there," said Daniel.
The Athens Pee-Wee football league was another training ground for Daniel and others who led the Athens High School football program to great success. "Mr. (Buck) Buchanan and Mr. (Jim) Beasley were the two men instrumental in starting the Pee-Wee league here in 1949. Their time and efforts really helped us prepare for high school football," said Daniel.
When Daniel reached Athens High School in 1952, he would embark on a career that saw he and his teammates establish the Golden Eagles as one of the premiere football programs in the state. "Growing up in the 1950's in Athens was a very exciting. The war had ended, the economy was booming and people here were just football crazy. We had tremendous support from our fans and the folks in town. Even though we were the smallest high school in the state in class AA, we played a class AAA schedule and won a lot of games," said Daniel.
The 1954 Athens High team outscored their opponents by whopping 306-40 margin which included six consecutive shutout wins by the Golden Eagles. The team finished 9-0-1 that year and runner-up in the state. Daniel was a junior on that team and says it was a memorable year. "We played a tough schedule but our team accepted the challenge and did well," said Daniel.
Baxter Booth, 2007 Limestone County Sports Hall of Fame inductee, says Daniel was the best running back that he was ever around. "He was a threat to score a touchdown ever time he touched the football. He was very fast. When Jerry was in the open field, I never saw anyone catch him. Jerry was a great football player," said Booth.
College recruiters began to take notice of Daniel's football talents and he accepted a football scholarship to the University of Alabama. Freshman weren't eligible when Daniel played college so he was a starter for the Alabama junior varsity team during his first year at the capstone. Daniel's sophomore season saw him play both offense and defense for the Crimson Tide. Daniel would leave Alabama after this sophomore season and transfer back to Athens College (now Athens State University) where he earned his degree in Mathematics.
Larry McCoy, who later became the head football coach at Athens High School, was a college teammate of Daniel's and says Daniel was a very good football player. "Jerry was fast, tough and quick. I remember Jerry playing tailback at Alabama and having some good games. I served as an assistant coach for coach Elmore at Dothan and he repeatedly told me about how good Jerry was in high school, said McCoy.
Daniel says he is honored to be inducted into the Limestone County Sports Hall of Fame. "I accept this award for the Athens High football teams of 1952 through 55. Football is a team effort. It takes everybody doing their job or nothing gets accomplished. I will always remember this honor. So many people are responsible for this honor and I am proud that I was able to play at Athens High School when I did," added Daniel.