- The Washington Times - Saturday, August 8, 2009

Listed - somewhat generously - at 6-foot and 225 pounds, Chase Daniel is not the biggest quarterback attempting to make the NFL this season. But Daniel’s ability to turn obstacles into opportunity could play to his advantage with the Washington Redskins.

The 22-year-old knows better than anyone that he is facing an uphill battle as he attempts to make the 53-man roster.

“You can’t take anything for granted,” Daniel said. “You have to work harder than the guy next to you.”

At the University of Missouri, Daniel established himself as one of the country’s elite collegiate passers, throwing for 101 touchdowns and 12,515 yards. In 2007, Missouri went 12-2 and Daniel was a Heisman Trophy finalist along with Colt Brennan, the Redskins’ third-string quarterback last year. In 2008, Daniel threw for more than 300 yards eight times.

“I’ve coached a lot of quarterbacks, and he probably has the best leadership skills of any player I’ve ever coached,” said Gary Pinkel, Daniel’s coach at Missouri. “He’s a very driven guy. He’s very tenacious and physically tough. Those qualities will help him play at the professional level.”

Despite his impressive collegiate career, Daniel was passed over in April’s draft, and the Redskins snapped him up as a rookie free agent. Now Daniel faces long odds to make the roster.

Jason Campbell is slated to retain his role as the starting quarterback. Todd Collins, a 14-year veteran, and Brennan, who has a year under his belt, are vying for the second spot. If everything holds to form, Daniel could be looking at a spot on the practice squad.

Learning a new system has also been a challenge. At Missouri, he had tremendous success running a spread attack that he had run since he was in high school. Now he has to master the Redskins’ version of the West Coast offense.

Daniel is using the tough road ahead as motivation. During a goal-line drill at a sweltering practice earlier this week, Daniel made a snap decision and connected with tight end Fred Davis for an easy score.

“I started just playing instead of thinking,” Daniel said. “I knew the reads.”

Coach Jim Zorn said he is happy with the progress his young quarterback has made.

“He’s got an accurate arm and deceptive ball speed,” Zorn said. “He’s picking up things really well. He has a tremendous amount of desire to play. He’s asking the right questions and really preparing himself. You’re going to see him this preseason.”

On his Twitter page, which has more than 6,000 followers, Daniel says he studies the Redskins’ playbook for hours at a time.

“He is a tremendous leader,” offensive assistant Chris Meidt said. “He’s been a big-time winner. Missouri turned him into a top quarterback.”

Daniel is in good company as an undrafted quarterback. In recent years, several have started in the NFL, including Dallas’ Tony Romo, who had to wait a couple of years for his big break.

After going undrafted in 2003, Romo was picked up by the Cowboys that summer. In 2006, Romo became the first-string quarterback and guided the Cowboys to the playoffs. In 2007, Romo led the team to a 13-3 record.

When Daniel learns about players like Romo, he remains optimistic about his chances.

“It definitely gives me hope,” he said. “You have to keep trying. Treat every day like it’s your last day.”

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