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In Defense of Ronnie Daniels

Former La Cueva Standout Shouldn't Be Stereotyped

Do yourself a favor: Do not do a Twitter search for the name Ronnie Daniels. And now that I've said not to do it, I'm sure some of you have or will. And for those who did, I hope there's some small percentage of you who are feeling unsteady. Perhaps some combination of shame and voyeurism, maybe some disgust with our fellow humans? I'm sure there are some who will simply pile on. I'm sure there are some who already had done so. Just another story of a gifted athlete who people say wasted their talents. Nothing new here, just another chapter to add to the stereotype storybook.

New Mexico Preps has largely taken a hands-off approach, presenting what they simply call a Ronnie Daniels timeline. They did diligent work documenting his greatness while he was breaking records at La Cueva High School, but there's only one hyperlink in their timeline that's directed toward those positive memories. There are plenty of naked facts, such as his seven touchdowns against Manzano. But when it comes to the negative news, starting with his dismissal from Texas Tech in 2012, it's time for the linkbait. I'm unaware of any other news organizations' practices or standards, but I know that I've backlinked to stories from the Alibi. Keep the traffic on our site.

NMPreps, though, is just doing its job: reporting some topical news. There's no doubt that this is a big story, especially in Albuquerque. KOAT reported it first and the gossip devolved from there. There's been little follow-up, other than more bad news.

The Ronnie Daniels story has already been written, concluded, and filed, according to some. But there's a lot more that goes into any person's story, at any time in their life, other than what's happening right now. Past chapters of Daniels' story include the idea that he had given up on football after initially committing to San Diego State following his dismissal from Texas Tech. What caused the whiplash? We'll probably never know, but the possibilities are certainly worth considering given this most recent and most astonishing turn of events.

I knew Ronnie Daniels from the time he was in 8th grade to the time he left Albuquerque for Lubbock. My experience with him was multi-faceted: I was his teacher, I worked with him during the basketball season, and I was fortunate enough to be close with many of his friends. While he was in my class, Ronnie was an exceptional student. When he was on the basketball court, he loved to compete. He wanted to beat the other team, no matter who they were, badly. But he was also a willing passer, giving up shots to get his teammates involved. When he left middle school, most of us knew that he was destined for bigger and better things. He proved us right almost immediately. Despite being a fairly large sports star at a fairly successful high school, any time I ran into him in the stands during a girls basketball game, or before one of his own, he was polite, respectful and showed more than a modicum of humility. He was neither the best nor the brightest student I've ever had. He was neither the most dedicated nor selfless athlete I've had the privilege of working with. But he was a good, talented kid. And he remained a solid, well-rounded individual any time I ran into him and we had a chance to converse.

Ronnie could also be a cocky jock, perpetually ready with a quick, smug remark about his athletic prowess. But his arrogance was almost entirely justified with truly gifted play, whether on the basketball court or on the football field. My friends and I jokingly referred to him as Boobie Miles on occasion, but I personally never saw him skip a basketball workout. He was no slouch in the classroom either, winning the spelling bee in my class. This isn't to say I never heard tales from his peers, that he was too sure of himself or, later, that he'd begun to (if he hadn't already been in the habit of) skip those steps. But Daniels was an incredible talent at a school renowned for their decorated athletes amongst other things, and some level of that has to be expected.

The case study of the talented kid who lets it all go to waste has already been written. Instead of dredging up old school rivalries or condemning a young man for the admittedly huge errors he's made, maybe we should take a turn trying to remember that this young man, as so many others are, is clearly in need of help.

Daniels did not succeed or fail because he went to La Cueva, not any more than he succeeded or failed because he is from the city of Albuquerque or the state of New Mexico. As a fan of New Mexico youth and sports in general, I'll be thinking of Ronnie often over the next few weeks. I'll be hoping that he turns out as well as many of my other former students, who might not have been as talented but put in just as much, if not more, work. They didn't have the expectations foisted upon them that Ronnie did and for that, during their time in school, they might have been envious. Now it appears the tables have turned. His undeniable success on the football field, though, probably contributed to his problems now, and it's worth remembering the ways in which he dazzled people in our city and state during his time in high school athletics. If we were wowed by him then, perhaps we can spare the extra moments that it takes now to think of him as a human, a young man, not even at the age yet when those who are fortunate enough to go to college have graduated, as opposed to yet another cliché.

 
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