Ryan Daniel never wavered from his upbeat personality.
He was a dedicated assistant football coach at Buford High that players gravitated to for his demeanor, says Wolves coach Jess Simpson. Daniel, a 2000 graduate of Buford High, also made an impact with those he met in the school’s halls, where he served as a special education teacher.
After learning of Daniel’s death Thursday from a heart attack, his lifelong friend and childhood neighbor Sean McCarthy remembers a friend that was always in a good mood.
“I could always call that guy, and you could never catch him in a bad mood,” McCarthy said. “He was the kind of person that needed to be around people, and other people needed to be around him.”
Daniel, 30, died after collapsing while playing in a pick-up basketball game at the school early Thursday morning. Resuscitation efforts were attempted on the scene and he was transported to Northside Hospital-Forsyth, where he was pronounced dead.
McCarthy said it was common for Daniel to play in basketball games before school a couple days a week.
Daniel was always an athlete, including playing on both sides of the line of scrimmage for then Buford coach Dexter Wood, who is now the school’s athletic director.
“Ryan was one of the real special people,” Wood said. “He grew up here in Buford, played football here and came back to give back to others in the community as a teacher in the classroom and coaching football.
“He was one of the most beloved people here at Buford.”
Daniel served as an assistant football coach at the school for five seasons, working primarily with the freshman football program, according to Wood.
Buford coach Jess Simpson, who was an assistant coach during Daniel’s playing career, said current players were gathered to deliver the tragic news early in the day about the well-respected member of the coaching staff, faculty and lifelong resident of the community.
“We’ve lost a favorite son,” Simpson said. “It’s just devastating to lose Ryan.
“He was the kind of person that was a caretaker of our program and kids just gravitated to him because of his personality.”
Daniel was known for being in good shape physically, even though McCarthy mentioned that his friend was previously diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat. Daniel’s father, Ron, died in 2006 of a heart attack, according to McCarthy.
Wood remembers Daniel was a key member from his football team’s senior class in 1999, when the team finished 10-2 and made the second round of the state playoffs. He said that team turned things around and spurred the Wolves’ run of seven state championships from 2001-2010.
After graduating, Daniel played college football and earned a degree from Catawba College, before coming back home to teach and coach in Buford.
“He was full of everything good and joyful in this world,” said Buford High math teacher Bonnie Davis, who also taught Daniel as a student. “You can not imagine how he will be missed by our coaches, our students, our faculty members, our custodians, our administrators, our lunchroom staff, and our extended community.
“He smiled that smile and you couldn’t help but giggle right along with him.”