First, all the best to new North Carolina coach Butch Davis, who will undergo chemo therapy to treat a cancerous growth in his mouth. Get well, coach, and hope to see your turnaround powers on the sideline in September. Now...
Much of college football has probably forgotten him, and the state of Nebraska only wishes it could. SMQ, however, has a deep personal interest in the future of Joe Dailey, a young man singlehandedly responsible for one of the great moments in Southern Miss football history.
It was Dailey, in his first real start after a glorified run-through against Western Illinois in 2004, who quicklly earned cheers from SMQ and friends watching on TV back in Mississippi - he threw an interception on the game's first possession, and each of the subsequent 40 times he dropped back meant Nebraska wasn't running in six and eight-yard gashes, as it was every time Dailey deigned to hand off. It was Dailey who threw three crucial, momentum-obliterating interceptions, including a screen pass returned for the touchdown soley responsible for resurrecting entombed USM hopes on the last play of the third quarter. It was Dailey who ran out of bounds four yards short of a first down on Nebraska's final, desperate fourth down attempt. In his way - that is, throwing 19 interceptions while leading losses to USM, Kansas State, Iowa State, Colorado, Oklahoma and Texas Tech, the last by sixty points, and becoming the first Nebraska quarterback in four decades to helm a loser - Joe Dailey is personally responsible for some of the most warming memories not only for SMQ's Southern Miss brethren, but for hardened hearts throughout the Big Twelve. You might call Joe Dailey a sort of freelance humanitarian.
To know Joe Dailey is to love Joe Dailey, if you're an opponent of Joe Dailey.
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So it was with great interest last year that SMQ noted this generous individual's transfer to North Carolina, and his contributions in on-again, off-again duty to victories for Tar Heel opponents in reliable fashion:
- Against Rutgers, a first half Dailey pick turns into a Rutgers scoring drive; his second interception ends a would-be winning drive well into Knight territory. Rutgers wins 21-16. UNC outgains the Knights 403-362.
- Against Virginia Tech, Dailey's first of two interceptions is returned to the UNC two, setting up Tech's first touchdown. The Hokies win 35-10. UNC outgains Tech 268-224.
- Against Wake Forest, Dailey's second interception comes on a would-be tying drive at the Wake five-yard line with 11 seconds remaining in the game. The Deacons win 24-17. UNC outgains Wake 370-289.
- Against Georgia Tech, Dailey throws back-to-back picks to end the first half, the second from inside the Yellow Jacket 30 on the Heels' best drive of the game. Tech wins 7-0. UNC is outgained 221-211.
But with Dailey and Sexton representing the whole of the quarterbacking experience on UNC's roster as it enters the Butch Davis era, it might be something of a surprise that it's the younger Sexton staying on to compete for the starting job with incoming freshman Mike Paulus. In the meantime, to keep Dailey on board this Spring rather than see him leave a second school the year after struggling as it's primary passer, Davis is going fairly basic: you ever try catching the ball, Joe?
But Davis had another idea: switching the 6-foot-1, 205-pounder to wide receiver.
"He can run; he's smart; the kid's brilliant,'' Davis said. "... He's too good a guy and too valuable of an offensive threat not to find a role for him."
To sway him, Davis offered examples of NFL players who had successfully made the switch from quarterback. But Dailey was more inspired by the idea of learning a new position, a change that could make him more marketable in his future coaching career.
"I just wanted to contribute and do so without hurting this team,'' Dailey said.
That's Joe Daily in a nutshell: always thinking of others! You're a good kid, Joe - much luck wherever you may play.