WAYNE, NJ – The Wayne Hills Football program ended early this year because of the second wave of the coronavirus. But senior, Dan Daly didn't need that last game or any playoffs to break the school’s all-time tackle record.
With two games left on the schedule, Daly needed 10 tackles to tie and 11 to break the Hills record of 242 held by Jason Modak of the class of 2018.
What Daly didn’t know when he suited up to play against Watchung Hills High School on November 21 was that the next game on the schedule would be canceled. So, his mind wasn't on the record that day, it was solely on the game.
“I was motivated to get a team win and that’s why I was just flying around the field like I was,” he said. “It just so happened that I broke the record by one tackle.”
Daly made exactly 11 tackles and set a new Wayne Hills record with 243. He did this in only 31 games over four years, as opposed to Modak who had his final tackle in his 36th game.
But this is not the only Wayne Hill record that Daly owns.
In lacrosse, the outstanding athlete is considered by many to be one of the best goalies in the state and one of the top five goalies in the country, for the class of 2021.
He was the first-ever freshman starter at goalie in Wayne Hills history, and he set the Hills all-time saves record in his 2019 sophomore season with a total of 312 saves. That season Daly had the lowest goals-against average in the entire country where he only gave up an average of 2.7 goals per game.
Wayne Hills won the Passaic County lacrosse championship for the third year in a row in 2019 and Daly was half-way to becoming the first-ever four-year championship winner. Then COVID hit and his junior season was scrapped, and his senior season this spring is in jeopardy. But his coach is hopeful.
“This upcoming season is important for Dan,” said Hills lacrosse Head Coach, Marc Jacobson. “This is his team and he's going to put us on his back and give time for the younger guys to develop. But I think, just as importantly, Dan is the best goalie in the state and he really should be an All-American this year and he should get all the accolades that come with it.”
Daly would be the first lacrosse All-American for Wayne Hills. It would be another mark in the history books for this remarkable young man, so many hold out hope for him to be able to play.
As good as Daly is as an athlete though, his coaches hold him in even higher regard for his maturity, his leadership and his character as a human being.
Wayne Hills’ athletic director, Jeff DiLollo described Daly as “one of those young men that you only come across a few times in your career.”
“Not only is he a tremendous athlete, but he is an individual of character and excels in academics as well,” added DiLollo.
Head football coach Wayne Demikoff said, “Since he came in as a freshman, there was something special about Dan. Take football out of the equation for a minute, and just look at him as a man, which is what he really is already. He's got all the characteristics that you look for: He’s mature, driven, focused, and hard-working. All of this separates him from a lot of other kids his age.”
“Dan wants everybody else to be better,” added Jacobson. “To me that's the difference between a good and a great player: a good player is outstanding at their position; a great player makes everybody around them better and makes sure everybody around them is better, and that's what Dan does.”
Daly has been described as smart, tough as nails and relentless. He’s a leader and sets the tone for his teams by example.
“I've never seen Dan Daly do anything halfway,” said Demikoff. “Everything that he did, whether it's as a person or as an athlete was full speed ahead, 100 percent preparation, 100 percent focus and that’s what makes him rare.”
This is why Daly has had so many offers from several Division One schools like Notre Dame, Ohio State and Maryland. But he turned them all down and chose the US Naval Academy, where he recently verbally committed to play and is in the process of application and acceptance.
When asked why he chose the Naval Academy, Daly showed the maturity he has become known for.
“The Naval Academy is going to provide me with every opportunity possible in the future,” he said. “While I'm there it's going to push me to become a better person and become the best version of myself, that maybe going to another University wouldn’t do.”
“I'm a very goal driven person,” he added. “So being around people that have like-minded goals and that are very driven, is going to make me become a better person. Also, I'm excited to serve my country. In the end and I think I made the right choice.”
His father, also named Dan Daly, sees in his son’s success, his own success as a parent.
“My number one priority as a parent has always been to give my kids the guidance and the opportunities to be better than I am,” he said. “And, I think that Daniel is an example that gives me confidence that I've achieved that.”
The younger Dan Daly knows how fortunate he was to have the upbringing he received from his parents.
“Every accomplishment I've made is dedicated to my parents, because without them I wouldn’t have done any of the things that I've done,” he said. “I love them more than anything in the world. I hope that they realize that everything that I do is because of how they raised me.”
Vaccines are in reach, and an end to the COVID nightmare could be coming this spring. It would be just in time for Dan Daly to step onto the lacrosse field and add to the glory he has already achieved. It will give fans of the Hill senior one more opportunity to see his rare greatness at work, and for him, and the rest of the class of 2021 the chance for normalcy that the class of 2020 never really had.
Daly was a gift to Wayne Hills High School. DiLollo, Demikoff and Jacobson all used the word “fortunate” in different ways, but they each said the same thing: That they were lucky to have a person of Daly’s caliber playing on their teams and for their school.
Demikoff believes that Daly will be a gift to America as well.
“With guys like Dan Daly in our service academies, our country is in good hands, that's for sure,” he said.