Son of recovery worker David Dangerfield playing football for his father (Kentucky)

Everything happens for a reason.

Words to live by for Western Kentucky senior wide receiver Jared Dangerfield. Words that kept him – and still keep him – focused.

“Everyday. I look down at my tattoo of him every day and think about him,” Jared Dangerfield said softly. “That was his favorite saying, ‘Everything happens for a reason.’ That’s everyday life.”

David Dangerfield, Jared’s father, died unexpectedly of a heart attack in August of 2009. He was a respected community leader and, to many, a hero.

Jared was 16, about to be a senior at Royal Palm Beach High in Florida where the name Dangerfield was synonymous with football. Jared’s brothers Jordan and David Jr. had been his teammates and his brother T.J. had been his coach.

But his father, a former New York firefighter who was among the first responders during the attack on the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001, wouldn’t be there to watch Jared’s senior season.

“Aw man, that threw me off everything. Especially with school going into my senior year,” Jared said. “Everybody took it bad. Everybody in my family took it pretty bad.”

At 6-foot-2, 180 pounds in 2009, Jared wasn’t heavily recruited to play college football (especially since he said he was a 5-foot-5 freshman before a growth spurt the summer going into his junior year). Buffalo, Florida Atlantic and Appalachian State showed some interest, but he ultimately decided to attend Towson in Maryland to be with his brother Jordan.

After taking the fall semester off before joining the team at Towson in January of 2011, Jared made a bold choice after his lone season with the Tigers that is paying off today. He left for the desolation of Kansas to do some soul searching.

“Oh man. That’s in the middle of nowhere,” he said of the decision to play at Fort Scott Community College. “I’m used to being in the big city. Going to Kansas it’s just – it humbled me a little bit.

“But I chose that school because it was in the middle of nowhere, and I wanted to focus on football and school, hurry up and get out of there. Business trip. I always stayed focus, I always had faith and always felt like everything happened for a reason. I was there for a reason and it was only a matter of time before I leave.”

Jared’s brother Jordan – who originally played at Hofstra – remained at Towson where he became a star defensive back by making 281 tackles over his college career. He was signed by Buffalo in 2013 and is currently on Pittsburgh’s roster after signing with the Steelers on Aug. 8.

The two talk daily about the struggles of chasing a professional football career. And about their late father.

“That was a definitely a dark time and definitely a hard time,” Jordan said. “For me, that was my freshman year of college, so I was away from the family. Since I was a freshman in college, staying focused on football kind of took my mind off of it. But I think we all fought through it how our father would have wanted us to, just to stay on track and not to give up completely and just use it as motivation and that put a little chip on our shoulders to get where we are today.”

The Dangerfields grew up in Elmont, N.Y. where mother Erica was a crime scene investigator before her husband David retired in 2002 and before the family decided to move to Florida for a warmer lifestyle in 2005.

Jared told the Palm Beach Post in 2009 that he had his father’s large hands, another constant reminder to the legacy David left for his youngest son. Jared has used those hands during a fast rise to one of college football’s better receivers.

In 2013 at FSCC he caught 43 passes for 690 yards, was an all-conference selection and recruited by Baylor, Iowa State, Louisiana Tech and Northern Illinois. A previous relationship with former WKU coach Bobby Petrino, who recruited Dangerfield before an injury-stricken 2012 season while Petrino was at Arkansas, led Jared to Bowling Green.

His first season at WKU included 69 catches (a program record) for 825 yards and 11 touchdowns. Only Porter Williams in 1973 has caught as many TDs in a single Western Kentucky season, and not since 2007 had a WKU player hauled in at least 800 yards receiving (Curtis Hamilton, 873).

His next stop in 2016 appears to be an NFL camp.

“I tell him to keep doing what you’re doing. He has to stay focused,” Jordan said. “They’ll be a lot of distractions at this point, with fans, agents, media, money – all that. He has to stay focused on his senior year, do what he did last year – or even better, and then he can focus on that stuff.

“I tell him to focus on his senior year, make it a good one and go from there.”

Jared (now 6-3, 215) caught touchdown passes of 5 (twice), 14 (twice), 31, 19, 6, 13, 16 and 35 yards last season. Notable scores came against Marshall where he grabbed a 25-yarder in overtime to precede a game-winning two-point conversion, and at Navy where he sprinted 31 yards, dove into the end zone and blew a kiss to his three sisters who had driven down from New York City and happened to be sitting on that end of the field.

His size and strength oftentimes make him an indefensible weapon in red-zone situations. His resolve and determination have put him in position for a memorable senior year – and perhaps to make the dream of what once was thought impossible a reality.

“That’s the goal,” he said about the NFL. “I have a chance to take care of my family, provide for them. It’s a lot of pressure, but I’m just taking my time day by day and I have faith that everything will work out.

“I sit back and think about it all the time. I went through a lot, but that’s life’s lessons. Like I said, everything happens for a reason.”

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