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May 4, 2005

Virginia's dynamic duo

Rivals 100 receivers Percy Harvin and Damon McDaniel out of Landstown in Virginia Beach, Va. haven't always been teammates. The two have followed different paths to become standout football players; they even played against each other for most of their athletic careers.

The 6-foot-1, 188-pound Harvin first started playing football when he was six.

"I played flag football and I always used to be the standout."

McDaniel on the other hand didn't start playing football until he was 10 or 11.

"I got into it with somebody my dad knew and they knew I was fast and they wanted to get me out there and see what I could do on the field," he said. "We were city champions when I played, that's when I played quarterback and running back."

Harvin and McDaniel first played against each other in basketball when they were about eight or nine. Competing against each other, the two developed a relationship and they carried that over to track.

"We won the world record for the 4x100 in the Florida Junior Olympics back in 2000," McDaniel said. "We've grown closer since then and we just hang out and stuff."

This past year the two finally played together on the same football team.

"We were always close and started hanging out, but this last year we did even more," Harvin said. "When we were young, we spent nights before games at each other's house and we would hang out on weekends. We ran together and that experience definitely drew us real close."

The two wideouts are definitely impressed by each other's skills.

"He's awesome, he has great hands and if you throw the ball he can go get it. He's strong and physical and not too many defensive backs can take him down by themselves," Harvin said of McDaniel. "I've never seen him get dragged down by one person."

The 6-foot-0, 192-pound McDaniel had plenty to say about his teammate and friend.

"Basically, he's a very hard worker," he said. "He's very talented, he's got tremendous speed, he's very strong and he plays a whole bunch of positions. He's the captain and he can lead his team, he's just an all-out player who's very competitive and he won't back down from anybody."

Asked about a comparison of the two, McDaniel replied.

"We're both very aggressive and good leaders. He's faster than I am, but I'm still pretty fast." McDaniel said.

Harvin added, "I know most people say he's in my shadow, but we both do what we can do. Some things he can do I can't and some things I can do he can't. We both just go out and play."

The wide receiver's differences are surely apparent as Harvin uses his speed to burn past defenders, while McDaniel uses his strength to power through them. But this difference allows the two of them to compete on and off the field to make each other even better.

"We're really competitive in the weight room and during workouts, and we just push each other on the field," McDaniel said. "He helps give me that extra energy and we're basically like family. We make the people around us better and our team better and that's our overall goal."

"We both get our statistics and we make each other better," Harvin added. "He definitely helps to push me harder because he's so strong. Usually I can just push a defensive back out of the way, but he's stronger than me and he makes me work a whole lot harder. On the other hand, I'm quicker than him, so I make him work hard too."

The stud receivers definitely are taken back by how much interest they have received in recruiting so far.

"It doesn't feel real," Harvin said. "Four years ago I was dreaming about going to college one day and now all of the schools are talking to me and the coaches are calling."

Much of the credit for handling the recruiting process and improving on and off the field goes to Landstown head coach Chris Beatty.

"Coach keeps our heads straight and makes sure we remain focused," said Harvin. "The recruiting process can be tough, but he's been through it before with players and is helping us get some space."

For McDaniel, the recruiting experience means there's plenty more to think about.

"It's making me think more. The more offers you get, the more you think because you have to consider family, coaches and where you fit in the best at."

With the college recruiting spotlight set firmly on the star receivers from Landstown, how have the two adjusted to the constant onslaught of recruiting interest?

"It's crazy because everyone is telling you how good you are and you're trying to stay level-headed and work hard," Harvin said. McDaniel added, "It's a lot to take in coming from not playing varsity, to being one of the top recruits in the state. I love it and I like the love the coaches and recruiters show me."

Recruiting has also definitely helped shape McDaniel and Harvin's friendship and has allowed them to take some of the pressure off each other, by having a friend to go through the process with.

"Just basically it's more for us to talk about and it allows us to look forward to our careers and futures, like what we want to be and do when we grow up," McDaniel said. "We talk about the recruiting process, thinking about where we're going, whether we'll go to the same college or our separate ways. We've talked pretty much about every scenario."

"It has to shape our relationship," Harvin said. "When he first got here, it was me getting all the letters, but now both of us get crazy letters and it's a real blessing. It's nice to talk to him about this and it's good to have someone going through the same thing and someone you can be real with."

The two stars definitely have a lot in common including their favorite college growing up. Harvin grew up a fan of both Florida State and Miami, while McDaniel is a fan of Miami.

"When I was growing up, I was always a fan of Florida State and Miami and I really watched them," Harvin said. "I loved Peter Warrick and I was always a big fan of him and Warrick Dunn."

"I used to watch Miami," McDaniel replied. "When I was little, since I was in eighth grade I just like the attitude they play with and they played as a squad. There was a lot of talent on the teams, but they still played as a team."

In addition to FSU and Miami, the duo are also looking at LSU, Virginia, Virginia Tech, Tennessee and others together.

The recruiting attention came after solid junior seasons for each. Both players had their most memorable games last season in the playoffs.

"We were playing out in the cold against Oscar Smith in the Eastern Region Championship, it was freezing but we won by one point," McDaniel said. "I made a lot of big plays that game catching five passes for 105 yards and two touchdowns and a two-point conversion. It's memorable to me because we came back as a team and fought to win it."

Harvin's standout performance came in the state championship game.

"I think my best game was the state championship game last year," he said. "I had 476 yards of offense and most of the time the colleges always mention that game when they talk to me."

Next year, the two receivers expect more of the same from each other in their final year at Landstown.

"I just want him to be the same. I want him to keep working hard and I don't want to see him fall off from all the hype," Harvin said. "I know he's going to keep working hard and I'm not worried about that at all."

"I want him to basically do the same thing he's been doing," McDaniel added. "He was the number one player in the nation last year and he's doing something right."

With the definite possibility of the two Rivals 100 receivers ending up at the same college, what would be the danger of having both of them on the same team?

"We could be real dangerous," Harvin said. "We both are real competitive and we'll compete until we get the job. We bring big plays and I've got speed and he can run over top of you, and you've got to worry about that."

McDaniel added, "Basically a team will get two hard workers, two people that want to play early, two guys that want to get it done in the classroom and on the field and two that want to make the program better."

The pair certainly plan on talking to each other before they commit.

"We'll definitely confer about our commitment, we've always been on the same team and we're definitely looking to do it, but we don't want to both go to the same school if it wouldn't be a good fit for both of us," Harvin said. "We've got some of the same offers and we both have the same idea of where we want to go."

"That would probably be our last key to decide on which school to go to," McDaniel replied. "Of course, we'll sit down with families and coaches and he's basically a part of my family. I think we'll probably all sit down and talk about it, my family and his family. We'll probably both decide on the same day."

As for which player is better, that's for the readers to decide.

"I really can't answer that, it depends what system you're in." said Harvin.

McDaniel had similar thoughts.

"I couldn't say, we're so different and he might be better at one thing and then I might be better at the other, but I won't say who is better. I'll let everybody else decide."

One thing is certain, if Harvin and McDaniel end up at the same school; one coach and some lucky quarterback will be very happy on Signing Day.


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