NOTRE DAME — In the days following his ascension to Internet fame, Cam McDaniel didn’t see much razzing in the locker room.
In fact, the only snarky comments McDaniel heard in the wake of the now-famous “Ridiculously Photogenic Running Back” picture were from the coaches.
“Well, I hear you’re a model now,” head coach Brian Kelly said to McDaniel after the running back was approached by several morning talk shows after the helmetless photo from the USC game went viral.
Tight end Troy Niklas in particular wanted to wait for a bigger audience before he gave his fellow junior a hard time. During media interviews on Wednesday, Oct. 30, Niklas cut in to McDaniel’s conversation with reporters with some questions about McDaniel’s modeling future.
Identifying himself as “Troy Niklas of ‘The World Press,’” Niklas fought to keep a straight face when asking McDaniel, “What exactly do you call the look, and how long have you been working on it?”
“People are starting to call it ‘Blue Steel,’” McDaniel said. “The funny thing is literally the night before all this went viral, I was watching ‘Zoolander.’ I kid you not, promise you. And didn’t have any relation to like all this. People had not mentioned any model-esque type things before this and then the next day all of this goes viral, ‘Blue Steel’-type stuff, and it was so funny. It really was. A very strange coincidence.”
Though McDaniel says he’s enjoyed the attention — his brothers, in particular, enjoy sending him their favorite variations of the meme — he’d rather catch attention as a running back than a model. McDaniel, who was regarded by many to be the fifth in the pre-season rankings of Notre Dame’s running backs, has defied the odds and expectations eight games into the season.
The 5-foot-10, 207-pound junior is Notre Dame’s top running back with 91 carries, 21 more than any other Notre Dame back this year. First utilized as a late-game closer, McDaniel wiggled his way into more and more playing time.
The doubt that he was too small or too slow only gave him motivation to keep going. Playing with a chip on his shoulder is something he learned from Michael Jordan, one of McDaniel’s sports mentors.
“He once said, ‘Train like an underdog so you can play like a champion,’” McDaniel recited. “That kind of sums up playing with a chip on your shoulder. That’s where you prove everybody wrong, but it starts with the prep of the off-season, camp and practice.”
Meanwhile, McDaniel and the Notre Dame equipment staff will figure out how to keep his helmet on. It’s happened four times this year, though Kelly joked he thinks it’s because McDaniel and equipment manager Ryan Grooms have an agreement.
“They must have some kind of deal going where (Grooms) gets cut in on any kind of placement (McDaniel) gets on the front page,” Kelly said Tuesday.
What will happen if it pops off again? Niklas wants to know as much as anyone.
“Is there another look you’re working on that we could see maybe debut pretty soon here?” Niklas asked. “Magnum?”
“A lot of things go on underneath the helmet so just really focused on that right now,” McDaniel said. “But if it pops off then we’ll see.”