The Columbus Lions pulled out all the stops to welcome back one of their all-time best players on Monday at Locos Grill and Pub.
Amid blue balloons, a signature Lions cocktail and even a red carpet, owner Duke Liberatore and coach Jason Gibson announced the signing of Damian Daniels, a Shaw High product who spent the first five years of his professional career in Columbus, but the past two in Albany with the rival Panthers.
Both parties expressed their excitement over being united once again.
“This is where I was born and raised,” Daniels said. “This is where I started playing football when I was 7 years old. I started my professional career here. The last two years, I’ve missed it. I played one game a year here the last two years, and that’s not enough.”
Daniels is sure to be a boon for the Lions secondary, as he already owns the franchise career interceptions record with 76. He recorded 20 during his time in Albany for a total of 96, three short of the Professional Indoor Football League record held by Kenny McIntyre.
He will add to a defense that allowed 51 points per game last season and a team that failed to make the playoffs for the first time in seven seasons. During Daniels’ time in Columbus, the team was 54-19, won two division championships and the 2010 SIFL title.
Gibson said that his addition to the team would be major improvement.
“He’s on the brink of becoming probably the greatest defensive back in the history of indoor football,” Gibson said.
The 5-foot-10, 185-pound Daniels said his biggest contribution would be veteran leadership, something the team may have lacked over the past two seasons.
“The main thing I bring is experience,” he said. “I bring leadership on and off the field. Hopefully I can lead them to a championship.”
Without having a complete knowledge of who will be back for this season, Daniels said that is still the expectation.
“From what I’ve heard, it sounds like we can have a championship team,” he said.
In addition to his professional career, Daniels is also the defensive coordinator for the Brookstone football team.
He said that his time as a coach has helped him as a leader as a player.
“Learning how to lead kids, learning how to lead by example, it definitely has helped me on the field,” he said.
He’s hoping that extends to this season, during which he will have a chance to break the all-time interceptions record.
“Awhile back, I never imagined myself in this position,” he said. “But last year, I realized I maybe had a chance to do it. There’s no place I’d rather do it than (Columbus.”
David Mitchell, Follow David @leprepsports.