January 26, 2012
People always tell me how lucky I am to have this job. I get to watch games for a living — it's all fun and games, right?
Not all the time.
Thursday was one of those rough days, when you have to report on a tragedy. It's never fun to interview people in mourning because you feel like you're intruding into their lives during an emotional time. They would prefer to see only family and friends, not a reporter.
Fortunately, most people I've dealt with understand the job I have to do, as well as my mission. My goal this morning wasn't just to write a story that a Buford teacher/coach died of a heart attack, it was to let people know about Ryan Daniel's life, and all the good things he did in his 30 years on earth. I think that's why Buford head football coach Jess Simpson and others took the time to sit down and talk with me about Daniel, a guy who was praised greatly by numerous folks on Thursday. The relationships I've formed with Buford people over my 15 years at the paper hopefully gave them the confidence to speak with me as well.
I'm old enough that I covered Ryan Daniel in high school football and baseball. I remember his athletic ability, both as a power hitter and as a powerful lineman. His senior class laid the foundation for the Wolves' current success, and his coaches will tell you he was the leader of that group.
Daniel was playing an early-morning basketball game at Buford High School when he died Thursday. Attempts to revive him with CPR and with a defibrillator weren't successful. It's a horrible loss for countless reasons, but it stings particularly badly because of what kind of person Daniel was.
Born and raised in Buford, Daniel left his hometown briefly to play football at Catawba College (N.C.), but returned almost immediately. Nobody loved Buford more and he relished his countless jobs — like coaching three sports (including middle school basketball), working with special education students and supervising the football team's managers. He was properly described as a servant, a guy who did anything you asked him to do without asking for anything in return. If a job needed to be done, he'd take care of it.
It was my honor to write something about a guy like that. It's not a story I wanted to write, but Ryan Daniel deserved a fitting tribute.
If anyone has any Ryan Daniel stories or nice things to share about him, feel free to post a comment below. We'd love to hear them.