Soon after being hired as East Carolina’s safeties coach in January 2020, Tripp Weaver reached out to Tyrik McDaniel in hopes of luring the Irmo, SC, safety to the Pirates.
Weaver had previously offered McDaniel a scholarship at his previous post as defensive coordinator at Western Carolina and felt the 6-foot-1, 200-pounder who had helped Dutch Fork High School win four straight 5-A state titles was a good fit for ECU’s system.
But McDaniel had already made a verbal commitment to Old Dominion and respectively declined Weaver’s offer.
Two years later, McDaniel had left ODU behind and entered the transfer portal where he originally committed to Coastal Carolina, but that scholarship offer was pulled. He subsequently enrolled at Independence Community College in Kansas. This time it was McDaniel who reached out to Weaver in a move that would finally get him into an East Carolina uniform.
“About a month and a half ago I reached out to Coach Weaver because he had recruited me before,” McDaniel said. “Me and him chopped it up for a little bit. He asked me some basic questions. He took a look at my film and liked what he saw. He took that to (head) Coach (Mike) Houston and the rest of the staff. We continued to build a relationship. Then, about a week or so later he ended up offering me a scholarship.”
The offer was issued Nov. 14 and four days later McDaniel was on campus for an official visit. Six days after that he made a verbal commitment to the Pirates to become the 14th member of ECU’s recruiting Class of 2023.
“I definitely wanted to show love to them for taking that chance on me,” McDaniel said. “At the time that was my biggest offer because I only got to play five games (at Independence) because of my broken hand. I scheduled the official visit immediately so me and my family could go up there and see what they were talking about. The hospitality was second to none. So, I went ahead and pulled the trigger.”
McDaniel’s path to East Carolina was long and winding. He began playing football at age five in and around the Columbia, SC, area and was a natural at the sport. McDaniel played quarterback until middle school when he shifted to cornerback.
Arriving at powerhouse Dutch Fork as a freshman, McDaniel joined a team stocked with future college athletes such as The Citadel quarterback Graeson Underwood, Tennessee wide receiver Jalin Hyatt, Charlotte wide receiver Elijah Spencer and Clemson baseball pitcher Ty Olenchuk.
The Silver Foxes are coached by Tommy Knotts, a legendary figure in both North and South Carolina where he has directed multiple state championship squads.
“Playing at Dutch Fork was exciting and interesting,” McDaniel said. “It was kind of like college at a high school. He (Knotts) just had a level of detail that he expected every player, from the starters to the scout team, to perform at a high level. He’s still the best coach I’ve ever played for.”
McDaniel played sparingly during his first two seasons on the Dutch Fork varsity before breaking into the starting lineup as a junior. He made 35 tackles, four tackles for loss and an interception, while also contributing 204 yards on punt returns that season.
As a senior, McDaniel was instrumental in Dutch Fork’s drive to another state title. He contributed 88 tackles, six tackles for loss and three interceptions on defense, and had 310 yards on punt returns and 169 on kickoff returns. In the state title game against T. L Hanna, McDaniel produced a game-changing 98-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
Colleges such as Akron, Campbell, Coastal Carolina, Charlotte, Chattanooga, Connecticut, Georgia Southern, Samford, South Carolina State, Southern Miss, Western Carolina and Wofford offered McDaniel scholarships, but he eventually settled on ODU. He enrolled in August 2020, just about the time Old Dominion officials cancelled its fall sports season due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
McDaniel appeared in all 13 games the following season and led the Monarchs in special teams tackles with eight. But uncertainty about his future at ODU led McDaniel to enter the transfer portal after the 2021 season. He entertained several scholarship offers before accepting one from Coastal Carolina. But when that offer was unexpectedly pulled, McDaniel first was headed to Garden City Community College in Kansas. That scholarship never materialized, and he was offered instead a walk-on opportunity there.
“Indy (Independence) gave me another opportunity, and I took advantage of it,” said McDaniel, who had 25 tackles and two sacks before being sidelined with the hand injury.
Those stats were enough to draw scholarship offers from the likes of Charlotte, Indiana, New Mexico State, Norfolk State and Western Carolina before McDaniel chose to become a Pirate. He’s expected to play safety at ECU.
“I just feel like I play with a high motor throughout the game,” McDaniel said, describing his strengths as a defender. “I never have a loaf. I’m always running to the ball. I play at a high level and at high speed. My knowledge of the game helps with all of that. And I’m not afraid of contact.”
McDaniel will have three years of eligibility left at East Carolina and he plans to enroll in January so he can compete in spring practice.