In Memory

Wayne Daniels

Wayne Daniels

Wayne was a good man and passed way too early in life.  He and his wife Rosie were good friends to me.  If you would like to add anything about Wayne please let us know.

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01/21/11 06:04 PM #1    

Bev Parker (Fowler)

 Full of fun and sensitive. I'll always miss your smile.

03/01/11 12:40 AM #2    

Joyce Reinhardt (Francis (Class Of 1970))

Obituaries, for deaths prior to 1987, are not available online ~ nothing available on 1982 microfilm/fiche ~ but please read the great story about his family (next post)


Married Rosary Rodriguez  11-13-71 Pnls Cnty

Died of hereditary congestive heart failure at the age of 28
Death Date: 7 Apr 1982
County of Death: Pinellas
State of Death: Florida
Age at Death: 28
Race: White
Birth Date: 16 Dec 1953

03/18/11 09:40 PM #3    

Joyce Reinhardt (Francis (Class Of 1970))

For Purdue receiver, mother knows best


© St. Petersburg Times, published December 27, 1999

"She has made all the right choices. So far, she has a pretty good track record," Chris Daniels says of his mother, Rosy Conto, who pointed him to athletics. [Times photo: Toni Sandys]
TAMPA -- The agents are calling, many of them. The letters are piling up too.

But Purdue's marquee receiver, Chris Daniels, who will play his last college game against Georgia in Saturday's Outback Bowl, has taken the tact that has worked for 22 years.

He has handed the controls to Rosy Conto. After all, mom knows best.

"He has sort of told me to take charge of the agent stuff and the business stuff and that's what I'm going to do," Conto said. "I've never had to do this type of thing but I want to make sure that it's done right. Nobody can do it better than mama."

Daniels, a former Clearwater High standout who set a Big Ten record for catches (109) and added 1,133 yards receiving in his senior season, said putting mom in charge was a no-brainer.

"It's a natural instinct that you want the best for your kids," Daniels said. "And the person you can truly trust with your life and your future is your mom. Your mother cares for you more than anyone else. ... She has made all the right choices. So far, she has a pretty good track record."

If it is true that the best way to predict the future is to look at the past, then Conto's history leaves Daniels with little cause for concern.

Conto, then Rosy Rodriguez, arrived from Cuba at the age of 8. She grew up in Miami with a family that included six brothers, all heavily involved in athletics. Nurtured in a strong Hispanic and Catholic environment, Conto said she quickly developed a deep appreciation for hard work and an even deeper appreciation for family.

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After moving to Pinellas Park, she married George Wayne Daniels, an air traffic controller and the young couple soon had two children -- a daughter, Cristina, and five years later, a son, Chris.

In April 1982, one month after Chris celebrated his fifth birthday, George Daniels died of sudden heart failure. It was a hereditary congenital disease. He was 28.

Conto, herself 28, said she refused to allow the tragedy to ruin the lives and futures of her children. A young, single parent, Conto's day-to-day routine changed dramatically and permanently.

"I didn't have time to worry and feel sorry about what happened," said Conto, who remarried eight years ago. "Life had to go on. I had to get up, get the kids ready for school, get them to school, go to work, pick them up from school, get their homework done, feed them dinner, get them to bed, get to bed myself and do it all over the next day. And the day after that, and the day after that."

That dedication forged a bond between the three that remains strong today.

Brent Brouse, a varsity golfer and one of Daniels' four roommates at Purdue, said the closeness of the family is something he had never seen.

"It's remarkable, but I think that Chris talks to either his mother or his sister every day," Brouse said. "They are on the phone all the time. Even if Chris doesn't speak to his mother, he talks to his sister and she relays the information to his mom. Look, I live 30 minutes from my parents and I don't speak to them every day. They are as tight as they get."

Of course, dad is not forgotten. Daniels said he remembers his father and admitted there were times when he particularly missed him.

"It would come up a lot like in high school, you know when they would have things like father/son day," Daniels said. "You would see the other kids with their dads and you would feel like you were missing out. But what can you do. There was no sense in wishing it didn't happen. It happened. There was no point blaming other people. I still had a great mom."

And mom, it appears, had great fortitude. As years went by, the former flight attendant who also worked in the travel agency business, continued to raise her children in the manner she thought best.

While she stressed the importance of schoolwork, Conto quickly noticed that sports was something Chris had an interest in and, considering the number of athletes in her family, seemed a promising road to travel.

Daniels willingly immersed himself into youth baseball and football and mom was there every step of the way.

"It wasn't always easy or convenient but he was always so excited to go," she said. "I had to find the time."

Everything wasn't perfect. In fact, one of the family's most memorable moments came when Daniels was about 9 and was ready for his first youth football practice with the Northeast Bandits.

The night before practice, Conto collected his equipment and cleared up last-minute instructions. The next morning, she helped Daniels dress and drove him to practice. When he arrived, to his and her horror, they realized that the girdle that holds the hip and thigh pads was on the outside. Daniels was humiliated.

"I can't believe she told (the Times) that story," Daniels said. "It was so embarrassing. There were all these girls there and here I show up with my girdle on outside. It was the worst. Everyone was laughing at me. Man."

Added Conto: "I remember the coach pulled me aside and he said, "Lady, if you want your son to be a football player, you've got to learn how to dress him.' "

It appeared to be her last mistake.

"Mom's come a long way since then," Daniels said, joking.

At the end of Daniels' junior high year, Conto moved her family to Clearwater so Chris would attend Clearwater High. Her brother, Rick, was the defensive coordinator for the Tornadoes and Conto was sure he would help provide guidance at times and places she couldn't.

Daniels was a 5-foot-5, 160-pounder and his uncle cut him no breaks. By the end of his senior year, Daniels had grown to about 6-2 and beefed up to about 190 pounds. He blossomed on the field as well, distinguishing himself as a receiver and defensive back.

"Chris was a hard worker and he had great hands," Clearwater coach Tom Bostic said. "I'm not at all surprised about his success."

Purdue was the only school to pursue Daniels seriously and, although Central Florida and a few others came calling in January, Daniels had made his decision.

A receiver in coach Jim Colletto's run-oriented offense, Daniels had opportunities to second-guess the decision. He also had ankle problems and back problems, making the first two years uneventful.

But with the arrival of coach Joe Tiller and freshman quarterback Drew Brees, Daniels could realize his potential.

Tiller, however, took some convincing.

"I remember the first time I saw Chris he was having back problems and was wearing a back brace on the field and I thought he had a corset on," Tiller said. "I thought to myself: "Well, this is exciting to think we're going to be working with a guy like this.' "

As usual, mom had inspiring words.

"I could sense how frustrated he was and I just kept reminding him to stay focused and use it as a challenge," Conto said.

Daniels put himself through a brutal rehab process and entered the season as a 6-3, 225-pound inside receiver whose lack of blinding speed was compensated by stickumlike fingers, crisp routes and a deft ability to shrug off defenders.

Ironically, it was against UCF in the season opener that Daniels announced his arrival as one of the nation's premier receivers. He burned the Knights for 125 yards on eight catches and added a touchdown as the Boilermakers rolled 47-13.

"We had recruited him and knew he could catch the ball," UCF coach Mike Kruczek said. "But what was surprising was his hands. I don't think he dropped a ball. It was an impressive effort."

There were quite a few. Against Michigan State on Oct. 16, he had a Big Ten-record 21 catches and 301 yards.

"I knew playing this position that I had the opportunity to catch a lot of balls," said Daniels, who has his pilot's license and is scheduled to graduate with a degree in Aviation Technology. "Before the season started, one of the coaches said: "If you don't catch 100 balls, it will be a shame. Still, I was surprised the way things went. It come to a point where I wanted the ball on every play."

And he got it -- 13 catches, 123 yards against Notre Dame; 9 catches, 89 yards against Central Michigan; 9 catches, 90 yards against Northwestern; 13 catches, 101 yards against Minnesota.

Despite the presence of Brees, who passed for 3,531 yards and 21 touchdowns, Daniels was named the team MVP.

"He was stunned, couldn't move," Conto said of the surprise announcement at the athletic banquet. "I was so proud of him. I know where he has come from. I know how much hard work he put in."

After collecting himself, Daniels took the podium and delivered a message Conto said best sums up her boy.

"He told the freshmen that four years ago he was in the back of the room watching as fullback Mike Alstott, now with the Bucs, received his MVP," Conto said. "He said that at that moment, he was inspired to make something of his experience at Purdue. He wanted the freshman that night to be as inspired. He told them never let anyone tell you, "You can't!' Never let any circumstances get in the way."

Funny thing, Conto said, but that's what she was thinking.

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