U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Samuel Daniels: Running with a purpose
By Annette P. Gomes, Army Warrior Care and Transition

MACDILL AIR FORCE BASE, Fla. -- As competitors rounded the University of South Florida's track, all eyes were on U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Samuel Daniels as he ran the first leg of the men's 4 x 100 relay race.

"Initially, I didn't think I could do it and I didn't have that push. It wasn't about me running the first or third leg of the race, I was really nervous. I just kept telling the coach; I don't really think I can do it," Daniels said.

Moments later and with deep emotion, Daniels said he found his purpose and spirit as he began the first leg of the race.

"I remembered I wanted to do it for Ryan Payne, the son of fellow former competitor and veteran Heather Moran. Ryan died a few weeks ago and was my biggest cheerleader. I wanted to honor his memory and the coach said, "you got this." I was so nervous," Daniels said.

"I pointed to the sky twice and said Ryan I know you are looking down on me and I just took off running," said Daniels. "I felt no pain. I ultimately drew my strength for him and when I felt myself slow up, I could hear his voice in the back of my head saying run faster, faster. I again just pointed to the sky and said this one's for you Ryan.

Daniels says he always searching for inspiration as he recalled his journey to the 2019 Department of Defense Warrior Games in Tampa.

"It's funny how it happened because I was actually an alternate so it all worked out. I remember speaking to former competitor Staff Sgt. Dorian Rhoten last spring about divine intervention. I applied that same principle and here I am," he added. "It's just that simple."

"I had a purpose and it involved wanting to bring that same intensity, drive and emotion we had last year as a team in an effort to help the new participants. Even though you may be competing in an individual sport, collectively we're going to push and cheer for the person coming in last almost more than the person coming in first," he explained.

Daniels' found his way to adaptive sports after suffering a herniated disc from falling and landing squarely on a rock. He was assigned to the Warrior Transition Battalion at Schofield Barracks, Hawaii. It was there he says he fell in love with adaptive sports.

"The WTB helped me focus on my recovery and showed my all these ways to adapt to things that work for me including yoga, along with more traditional sports," Daniels said.

The former collegiate basketball player is familiar with the bright lights of competition and says he's proud to represent Team Army at the 2019 Warrior Games. However, says he found an even greater level of inspiration since arriving in Tampa.

"It's a huge honor to represent Team Army," said Daniels. "There's no greater love than Team Army love. It's the love we have for each other. We may compete against each other but we love each other." According to Daniels, Warrior Games is the only place you'll see everyone come together and support each other in this manner. "I try to encourage and apply the same principal to these Games as I do in life, never quit, never give up, fight to the end."