Aaron McDaniels will have his Hawaiian Tiki Bowl jersey framed.
That’s how memorable was Aquinas’ senior’s trip to Honolulu, Hawaii.
McDaniels was one of four players from New York and was recommended by local coaches for the All-Star Football Game. He’s hoping his left tackle play for Team Kekoa (Warrior) in the game will boost his college recruitment.
The lineman, a Rochester resident, has yet to make a college commitment. He has received interest from St. Francis, Valparaiso, Edinboro, Ithaca, Catholic, Alleghany, Lehigh and Stonehill.
“I’ve played with really great players,” said McDaniels. “It didn’t end the way we wanted, but it was still a great experience playing in Hawaii.”
Hawaiian Tiki Bowl
The final game of the Tiki Bowl is what McDaniels remembers most vividly.
Team Kekoa’s three-star defenseman lined up at the tight end and caught a 25-yard leaping touchdown reception.
“We blocked well because we knew it was our last hooray of the game,” said McDaniels.
The Tiki Bowl formed three teams from the almost 100 selected players. Teams were coached by college staff, and each team played one half against another team.
McDaniels played left tackle and refereed some of the nation’s best defenders, some of whom were Power Five recruits. He also quickly learned the complex college lockdown schemes.
“I was happy with that,” said McDaniels. “My main goal was to play well against top players across the country.”
At Aquinas, McDaniels advanced to varsity as a freshman during the Little Irish’s run to the Section V Championship game in 2019. As a sophomore, he became a starter on the offensive line, helped Aquinas return to the Finals in 2021 and reach the Class AA second team.
McDaniels has an overall GPA of 91.5% while taking AP and dual credit courses.
The McDaniels family of five made the trip to the Tiki Bowl December 16-21.
His father Brendan, stepmother Jennifer, and sisters Mylana Wiese and Rowyn McDaniels accompanied Aaron to Honolulu for the holiday season.
The Tiki Bowl organizers kept the families busy with a luau, photos on the beach, exploring the aquarium, visiting Aloha Stadium, and touring volcanoes. Since Aaron is a history buff and Jennifer is a military veteran, visiting Pearl Harbor was particularly memorable.
The family also took time out to watch the Buffalo Bills play the Miami Dolphins in Hawaii-Aleutian Standard Time, a five-hour time difference.
“It was a great opportunity to be able to bring our entire family,” Brendan said.
Aaron plans to use his offseason to work with personal trainer Bruce Johnson to hone his skills and narrow down his college choices.
“Bruce has been an invaluable asset in[Aaron’s]improvement as a player and in his college process,” Brendan said.