James Daniels began his Iowa football career by enrolling early, arriving in January prior to his freshman season.
Friday, the Hawkeyes’ junior center announced plans to get an early start at the next level, joining teammate Josh Jackson in declaring himself eligible for the 2018 NFL draft.
A contributor in all 14 games he played as a true freshman in 2015, Daniels started 25 games for Iowa over the past three seasons and was an honorable mention all-Big Ten selection last fall as a junior.
Daniels reached the decision to forego his final year of eligibility after seeking input from the NFL Draft Advisory Board, which provides feedback to underclassmen about where they might fit into this year’s draft class.
He announced his decision on Instagram, following Jackson in writing a letter to fans in which he wrote that he had "an incredible college experience with memories I will always cherish," adding that he had discussed his options with his family and coaches.
"To coach (Kirk) Ferentz — thank you for taking a 17-year-old kid and shaping me into the man I have become. To my position coaches, Brian Ferentz and Tim Polasek, thank you for being instrumental in my development," Daniels wrote. "To coach (Chris) Doyle and the strength staff, thank you for molding me into the football player I have become."
Daniels concluded that he has a few classes to complete to finish his undergraduate degree and that he looked forward to "representing the University of Iowa and beyond."
Coach Kirk Ferentz, making his first public comments since Jackson announced his decision on Wednesday, said he believes both players are uniquely positioned for success at the next level.
"James and Josh will do well in their testing and preparations for the NFL draft," Ferentz said. "They will be high draft selections and have successful careers in the NFL. We wish both players our best and thank them for their contributions to our program."
Ferentz praised the work ethic of Jackson, a consensus all-American named as the Big Ten defensive back of the year, and said Daniels has grown since his arrival at Iowa in January 2015.
"James was very skilled and mature when he joined our program out of high school," Ferentz said. "It is unusual for a true freshman to step in immediately, but he is a positive guy who had the ability to do so. He has been a good student and teammate throughout his career."
Daniels is the third offensive lineman to leave early for the NFL during coach Ferentz's 19 seasons with the Hawkeyes. The other two, Bryan Bulaga in 2010 and Riley Reiff in 2012, were both selected in the first round of that year's draft.
With Daniels’ decision, Iowa will have two open spots on its offensive line to fill next season, including replacing 49-game starter Sean Welsh, a starting guard in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Ferentz also wished the best for a third Hawkeye who announced plans to leave the program this week, backup quarterback Tyler Wiegers.
"Tyler competed very hard, and very well, with C.J. (Beathard) and Nate (Stanley) throughout his career. I’m not sure we had anyone work harder," Ferentz said, adding he believes Wiegers is positioned for success in his decision to go to Eastern Michigan as a graduate transfer.