Former Junior Olympian sprints toward NFL goal

Steve Helwick

Daniel Wise’s prodigious athletic career rose to impressive heights at an early age. But Wise’s first successes at the national level occurred on the rubber polyurethane rather than a grassy turf.

The junior defensive tackle, while in elementary and middle school, qualified for several events in the Junior Olympics including the 800-meter and the 1500-meter races. The former long distance runner was a member of the cross country team in middle school and upon entering high school, he continued to pursue track and field by throwing the shot put and the discus.

Using the myriad of skills acquired from cross country, track and even wrestling, Wise’s multisport talents ended up creating a powerful, quick-footed Division I defensive tackle for the Kansas Jayhawks.

“Obviously, there’s high energy in football,” Wise said. “You’re always running around toward the ball. Long distance helps you pace yourself.”

Although Wise’s athletic career first gathered momentum in track and field, his family displays an impressive lineage of football players. His father Deatrich was drafted as a defensive tackle by the Seattle Seahawks in 1988 and his brother Deatrich Jr. — a former Arkansas defensive end — just entered professional football six months ago when the New England Patriots selected him in the fourth round of the 2017 NFL Draft.

“Seeing (my brother) get drafted, seeing all the emotion that played into that was important, and hopefully I’ll get that call as well,” Wise said on his family’s continued success in the sport. “Our dad was our football coach. He watched us grow up and taught us the game.”

Given Wise’s success on the field at Kansas, receiving that call is a realistic goal after his collegiate career concludes in Lawrence. In 2016, he was an All-Big 12 selection by the Associated Press after recording three sacks and nine tackles for loss. But those respectable numbers have only ballooned in this 2017 season. The Jayhawks’ star pass rusher currently has four sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss with a quarter of his games still remaining.

“Yeah, he’s a pretty versatile guy at that position,” head coach David Beaty said. “You don’t see it very often. You might see a (defensive end) that you might be able to move inside every now and then to a six technique, even a four and a three-down front sometimes. But this guy, being a defensive tackle and moving him to a rush end and being able to do that, that’s pretty unique.”

Before following in the footsteps of his older brother and father to the NFL, Wise plans to make the most of his experience as a Jayhawk, and he currently plays a large leadership role on the Jayhawks’ defensive line. He also embraces his off-the-field endeavors, as one of his primary objectives before leaving campus is completing his communications degree.

“He’s grown up so much from the first time that we ever met him,” Beaty said. “He’s turned into a real pro, and he’s turned into the leader. He’s really taken over that leadership role for our football team which is good to see. And he’s a productive guy. Right? And he cares about KU. That’s one of the things that I love about him most, he truly cares about this university.”