Daniels faith helps shape his career


Griffin Traylor, Volunteer Writer

Campus Minister Matt Daniels uses his coaching background to help lead students in worship and life.

In 2012, Daniels graduated from UNA with a Bachelor of Science degree with the dreams of one day becoming a math teacher and coach of a basketball team. Throughout his four years at UNA Matt was a student manager under Coach Bobby Champagne.

“He was very influential in my life and I’m very thankful for the opportunity I had to work with him,” said Daniels.  

In 2011, now assistant coach at UNA, Tom Berryman invited Daniels to the Rising Coaches Elite conference where he became a member and was later offered a grad assistant job at Jacksonville University (JU) starting August 2012. At Jacksonville, Daniels obtained his Master of Education in leadership and learning with a concentration in intentional leadership.

At JU, Daniels worked under Coach Cliff Warren from 2012 to 2014.

Daniels said that Warren and Champagne both had a passion to “develop successful men off the court.”

Daniels’ job at Jacksonville was focused on video editing for scouting and scheduling team events and functions. The scouting process began to leave Daniels questioning his decision to become a coach.

“You’re putting lipstick on a pig,” Daniels said. “You don’t want to show them all the flaws. Every school is doing that. It wasn’t just a Jacksonville thing. That’s what started to make me question: ‘Is this for me?’ For me, having integrity is very important.”

Daniels said he felt that the recruits should be able to see the good and the bad of the university and decide for themselves. He said to him that would cause some trust issues.

Daniels graduated from Jacksonville in May of 2014 and by the end of May, he was already at the University of South Alabama as Director of Operations for women’s basketball. The shift from men’s basketball to women’s taught Matt “how to listen.”

As Director of Operations, Daniels was in charge of the budget.

 “If you were to [ask], ‘What does it take to run a college basketball program outside of basketball?’ that’s what I did,” Daniels said.

Daniels was in charge of the team’s budget travel equipment scheduling of games and practices processing contracts and team travel as well as meals. This was the next step in the natural progression of becoming a head coach for Daniels.

In September of 2015, Daniels left JU and shortly after came back to UNA to work as Director of Gameday Operations and Facilities. Daniels’s job consisted of taking care of facility maintenance equipment and home game management of staffing officials clocks scoreboards set up take down and fan experience.

The job however was “very demanding,” requiring 80 to 100 hours a week to do properly. This gave Daniels “constant stress” as every mistake was “very noticeable,” the job eventually started “consuming” Daniels. This was when he noticed that he was “becoming his work”.

“I never wanted to be that I always wanted to bring attention to Jesus not to me or to my work,” said Daniels.

Daniels says his lack of detail brought about a highly stressful stretch in the job where he learned and overcame this flaw.

“I was really catching a groove, but it just felt like I was going nowhere,” Daniels said. “There were just a couple of moments when I realized this aint it. Working full time in ministry was something I had always thought about.”

As a teenager, Daniels preached in church and throughout his four-year degree at UNA, he was involved in the Baptist Campus Ministry (BCM). When Daniels was not in Flowers Hall, he was at the BCM. Eventually, he became the student president in his junior and senior year from 2010-2012.

“This ministry was essential for me in college, helping me keep my head on straight, keep my faith strong, make good decisions, but it also gave me the opportunity to serve which is something I am very passionate about is just serving the lord,” said Daniels.

Daniels made the decision to work for the Fellowship of Christian Athletes (FCA) in May 2018. At this time, David Sumner still held the campus minister position at the BCM. In the FCA, Daniels worked with athletes and coaches helping pray with them being a listening ear or just hanging out and having lunch.

“Those things were great and were so fulfilling and that’s when I realized this is what the Lord has for me is ministry,” said Daniels.

Halfway through Daniels’s tenure at FCA, the BCM offered him the campus minister position. At first, Daniels declined the position due to the success of FCA. The Director of the Office of Collegiate and Student Ministries Mike Nuss then contacted Matt asking him to pray about the opportunity.

On June 1, 2019, after countless hours of prayer with his wife Morgan, Daniels became the campus minister.

Daniels said that his previous positions as Director of Operations and his coaching background have helped him prepare for the “logistical side of the job.”

“I really do believe that [the Lord] has equipped me to help college students,” said Daniels.

From building relationships with students to the handling of finances for BCM, Daniels is able to use his past experiences in coaching to help succeed as campus minister.

 “If people don’t ever remember that Matt Daniels was the BCM here, but students remember that their lives were changed because of the impact of the BCM, because of the impact of Jesus through the BCM, that’s what I want and that’s what I strive for,” Daniels said.

The BCM stives on helping students not only grow spiritually but also get better grades and take care of their mental health. Last semester, the BCM held a career panel with a coach a nurse and a police officer to tell their experiences in those career paths as well as talk to students about taxes and mortgages. Daniels’ wife Morgan also teaches life skills for students such as sewing and cooking.

“We just want to help students go from being a student to being an adult,” said Daniels.

The BCM slogan is to “reach every student.”

Daniels said regardless of religion he would love for people to come to the BCM and get to know them even if they do not believe the same.

“The doors are open,” said Daniels.

Every Wednesday, the BCM holds a lunch for students from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m., each student’s first lunch at the BCM is free with a $2 price on returning students. The $2 fee on lunch goes into the BCM missions fund for travel to “Summer Missions” by students. The BCM also holds a student led Monday night worship service at 7 p.m. with occasional guest speakers such as professors and pastors. Some smaller worship groups also meet throughout the week at BCM.

Daniels said that the “community” aspect of UNA is what sicks out to him the most.

“I think UNA truly loves students,” Daniels said. “This place really does love and cherish their students and gives a lot of students an opportunity to really succeed. Whatever department they may be in they get the opportunity to set a foundation for their career here.”

Since Daniels’ freshman year in 2008 he says he has realized that life his bigger than himself.

 “For me [life] is about Jesus and it’s about others,” Daniels said.

 Daniels said he has three ministries first being his wife Morgan second being his children Luke and his baby sister who is due in May and finally the students of UNA.

 “I want to put students in a place to succeed a place to grow,” Daniels said. “I want students to find Jesus and to know him. I want students to at least know that there is at least one person in the world who loves them and is willing to help.”   

Daniels said his family has been very instrumental in his life and his career. Growing up, Daniels’ parents taught him Jesus and helped him learn what faith looks like and means.

“I wouldn’t survive this life without my wife,” Daniels said. “She literally is my biggest support my biggest encouragement my biggest accountability partner. It is all about them. I want to put them on the pedestal they belong on because without them I wouldn’t be who I am.”

 “Matt is very outgoing,” said Bryant Gobble, Student President of the BCM. “He is very energetic. I believe he brings a lot of life to the BCM, but he also brings a lot of knowledge and leadership.”

Bryant is also a host at the BCM who lives at the building helping take care of it and interact with anyone who attends. Bryant said the BCM is a resource for students either for prayer or just a break.

The BCM mantra is “Find it here.”

 “If you’re looking for truth, you’ll find it here,” Daniels said. “If you’re looking for community, you’ll find it here. If you’re looking for food, you’ll find it here. If you’re looking for opportunities to get connected in the community, you’ll find it here.”

Daniels said that he wants students to know that the BCM place is here for them. 

“If they need someone to talk to, I’m here,” Daniels said. “I want students to know we are here for them and we love them.”