By BRAD KEITH
STEPHENVILLE (September 30, 2015) — Daniel McCants doesn’t mind accolades, but he has a strong dislike for the interviews associated with them.
Rest assured, though, if he continues to lead the nation in all-purpose yards and to earn Lone Star Conference weekly honors, interviews are going to become the norm sooner rather than the later for the redshirt freshman speedster.
And if there’s anything the Tarleton running back and return specialist likes, its running fast. It’s something he’s done better than anyone nationwide in NCAA Division II through a third of the season.
“I like our offense because it moves fast, and I do everything fast,” said McCants. “In our offense, speed is a big part of everything we do, and I like running fast and using my speed to make plays.”
To say McCants is fast is a little like saying Tarleton is fond of its purple. He says head coach Cary Fowler is not exaggerating when he boasts the freshman’s split time in the 4×100 meter relay at the UIL Track and Field State Meet in high school.
“I really did run a 10.15 second split,” McCants says in as matter of fact a tone as most people tell you what they really did eat for breakfast that morning. “It was at the state track meet, everyone there was fast.”
Few are faster anywhere than McCants, whose blistering speed makes him an instant threat to score from anywhere on the field. It’s why special teams, the area of the game with the most open space and often featuring the most speed, are his favorite phase of the sport.
“I really like returning kickoffs more than anything. I like it all, I love running with the ball anyway I can, but that’s my favorite because there is room to run and get my speed going and try to make big plays.”
He returned seven kickoffs for 176 yards last week, an average of 25.1 yards per return. It was enough to earn him the Special Teams Player of the Week honor from LSC officials. He is the first Tarleton player this season to earn one a weekly conference honor.
Stunning fact – McCants has never scored on a kickoff return. Not at Tarleton, yet. And not at Killeen High School.
“I never really got to return too much in high school because teams started kicking away from me,” McCants explained. “I did return a couple (for touchdowns) but they were called back (for penalties).”
Seemingly anyone watching McCants predicts it won’t be long before he takes a kick back to the house for Tarleton, unless of course, teams start playing keep away the way they did in high school.
It’s not as if it bothers McCants to have to do it at running back, instead.
“They can’t kick the ball away from me when we’re on offense,” he said. “That’s why I want to be involved in everything.”
And he is, accounting for 686 total yards – 380 on kick returns, 224 rushing and 82 receiving. That’s a national-best 228.7 all-purpose yards per game. He’s yet to have a 100 yard rushing performance, but that should also be coming soon after he rushed for 91 yards against West Texas A&M and 83 at Midwestern State.
Not that he minds splitting the load with talented running backs like Jabari Anderson and Zach Henshaw. Together, the trio has powered Tarleton to an average of 192 rushing yards per game. Anderson is among those McCants lists as his best friends on the team, joining Michell Leonard, JaMarquis Durst and John Wadley.
“I want those guys to get the ball too, I just want to play my role any way I can and help the team as many ways as possible,” McCants said.
The problem? His numbers have not produced wins for Tarleton, which continues to search for its first victory as the Texans prepare to host Texas A&M-Commerce on family weekend in Stephenville. The game kicks off at 7 p.m. Saturday at Memorial Stadium.
But just as he believes he won’t go his entire career without housing a kick return, the freshman with afterburners also holds out belief that the wins are coming.
“Everybody’s working hard trying to perfect what they’re doing, learning everything and trying to do it all correctly at the right time,” said McCants. “We just have to play our game and not get down when something bad happens. We have to keep the flow of our game, keep the momentum.”
And keep moving fast.
Something McCants has done better than anyone this season. Anywhere. Nationwide.