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Booie Daniels getting reacquainted with Lancers
With brother & dad at his side, 1st-year varsity coach is spearheading new era at East Union
East Union football
New East Union coach Rodney “Booie” Daniels Jr. speaks with his team after practice on Wednesday while flanked by special teams coach, and dad, Rodney Daniels Sr. - photo by JONAMAR JACINTO/The Bulletin

Leading the East Union football program is a family business for the Danielses.

A 2007 graduate of Sierra, Rodney “Booie” Daniels Jr. was hired back in February as the ninth head coach in East Union history, and he has taken younger brother, Jarrod, and their father, Rodney Sr., along for the ride.

“My dad is going by ‘Coach Senior,’ my brother is ‘Coach J.D.’ and I’m ‘Coach Daniels,” Booie said. “I said we can’t all be Coach Daniels, so I’m pulling rank on this one.”

He was previously East Union’s freshman coach in 2022 and led the Sierra JV team last year.

East Union football
Booie Daniels coaches up one of his receivers during 7-on-7 drills at East Union.
Both Booie, now 34, and Jarrod were standout running backs across town at Sierra. Jarrod, class of 2010, held school rushing and scoring records at one point and played collegiately at Modesto Junior College and Idaho State. Rodney Sr. has supported their careers every step of the way, even serving as an assistant for ‘Coach Daniels.’ He is East Union’s special teams coordinator, while Jarrod coaches the running backs.

“It’s really special,” Booie said. “We (he and Jarrod) had the connection on the field when we were both playing, and our parents have always been our biggest supporters. It’s come full circle. Our time as players is done, but we can work together as a family to invest in the youth coming up. The game has always been near and dear to my dad’s heart, and he’s absolutely having the time of his life. For my brother, coaching has relit the fire under him.”

The rest of the coaching staff includes some familiar faces such as Corey Norwood, who returns as defensive coordinator after filling the same role for the previous regime led by Mike Kuhnlenz.

The Lancers went 13-20 in Kuhnlenz’s three seasons, making the Sac-Joaquin Section playoffs in 2021 and 22. Ted Anderson (defensive line) and Lou Smith (defensive backs) are also holdovers.

New to the staff is Gerome Surrell, a former St. Mary’s standout receiver who went on to play at Fresno State. He and Daniels were Manteca Chargers teammates at the youth level.

Elijah Jacobson is coaching the junior varsity team, while East Union product John Abrew heads the freshmen.

Coach Daniels himself is a familiar figure to many of the players. Weeks into the 2022 season, Kuhnlenz appointed him as head coach for the freshman team that ended up 9-1 and shared the top spot in the Valley Oak League. Those players are now juniors, several of whom got their feet wet at the varsity level last season.

East Union football
East Union head coach Booie Daniels watches as his players line up for 7-on-7 drills.

Junior receiver Jackson Fay played for Daniels in 2021 and was on board with the hiring of Daniels.

“It was cool, because we were already comfortable with him,” Fay said. “We already know his coaching style and his expectations of us.”

The team began summer practices on June 3 and will mix in some 7-on-7 scrimmages this month. The Sac-Joaquin Section Dead Period begins July 1.

“We’ve hit the ground running,” Daniels said. “It started with talking to the kids and getting a feel for who was playing and who wasn’t. We had some pretty low numbers last year, and right now we have 53 on the varsity. We’re a very junior-heavy team, and a lot of the kids are excited. They knew me from the year prior, and I’ll have that crew for two more years.”

Daniels said the team will continue using the up-tempo spread offense Kuhnlenz implemented, aiming to make use of electric athletes such as Fay.

“We’re going to stick with the spread, but with some different terminology, mainly because we are a very fast team,” Daniels said. “Four of my starters almost made state (for track and field) in the 4x100. We have speed, and I’m trying to build a program around what we have instead of trying to fit kids into what I want to make it. We’re still going to be a no-huddle spread, high tempo. Our goal is to gas teams out.”

Daniels has had enough experience coaching the spread, having done so at Sierra last season as well as with East Union in 2022.

After the 2022-23 school year, Daniels applied for the head coaching vacancy at his alma mater where he landed a teaching positon. Longtime Sierra assistant Jeff Abrew, brother John, got the varsity job but offered Daniels a spot as JV head coach, which the latter gladly accepted.

Daniels is fulfilling a lifelong dream of leading a high school football program, and called his experiences the last two years “eye opening.” He had previous coaching stints with the Manteca Chargers (2007-09) and Sierra’s JV team (2013-14) but as a position coach or coordinator.

Daniels has a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology and a master’s in kinesiology and sports coaching. He previously worked in law enforcement and, along with wife Jennifer, owned and operated Alpha Omega CrossFit in Ripon for 10 years.

Daniels will begin teaching physical education at EU this upcoming school year. He is also looking forward to starting career technical education courses for physical therapy and athletic training.

“I’m just extremely grateful for the opportunity and Mr. Simoni taking a chance on me,” Daniels said, referring to East Union Principal Eric Simoni. “Our athletic director, Abbas (Akhtar), is a young, energetic guy who is passionate and supportive of everything I want to do with the program and the kids at the school. I’ve had a ton of support from the administrators.”

East Union football
Players are lined up next to East Union coach Booie Daniels as they as they cool down at the end of practice Wednesday.