Jayden Daniels enters LSU's stadium.
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Family Tragedy Shaped Jayden Daniels Into a Heisman Favorite

Jayden Daniels posted the worst season of his career in 2021, the same year two of his grandparents died to COVID-19.

Jayden Daniels' season has been nothing short of remarkable, and he's going to win the Heisman Trophy on Saturday night.

But before the LSU star quarterback was throwing dimes and burning defenders, he was a wiry kid from California with big dreams. Those dreams first began at Arizona State, where he spent three seasons. It was clear after the 2021 season — in which he threw 10 interceptions and 10 touchdowns — that he wasn't the same player as the one who threw 17 touchdowns and two interceptions his freshman year.

That's partly because Daniels encountered two family deaths that would morph him into the player he is now in Baton Rouge.

The Deaths of Jayden Daniels' Grandparents Shook Him

Jayden Daniels passes against Arkansas.

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It was March 2021 that William and Betty Daniels, Jayden's grandparents, were buried after dying less than a month apart. The cause was COVID-19, the deadly virus that has killed more than 1.1 million people in the United States.

Daniels was extremely close to his grandfather. William used to drive him to and from practices. They'd get slurpees together from the gas station. Daniels wrote an extremely heartfelt post on Instagram dedicated to William, a post he still has pinned to the top of his profile to this day.

"If anybody really knew me the knew how much this guy meant to me and what he done for me. Been there for 20 years of my life every day and every step of the way. Used to pick me up from school, take me to practice, etc. Man I just have no more words other than I miss you papa I wish I was able to see you and talk to you again! I love you forever papa and I know you are watching over me," Daniels wrote.

Later that season, Daniels came home to California to play UCLA. He wore specially designed cleats that featured his grandparents' faces. He torched the Bruins for 286 yards and two touchdowns as Arizona State won 42-23. The game also came one day after William's birthday.

Jayden Daniels celebrates a 2021 win over UCLA with his mother, Regina Jackson.

Jayden Daniels celebrates a 2021 win over UCLA with his mother, Regina Jackson. (Photo by Harry How/Getty Images)

But that season was a down one for Daniels. Daniels posted the lowest quarterback rating of his career. Arizona State went 8-5, plus a recruiting violation scandal plagued the program and resulted in head coach Herm Edwards being fired in 2022.

There was no doubt that the two deaths affected Daniels in immeasurable ways.

"COVID hit our family and my mother and my father both died from COVID," Jayden's father, Javon Daniels, told Yahoo Sports. "We buried both of them in 2021, March. They died together. And that affected Jayden a lot."

Added Jayden's mother, Regina Jackson: "We had to close two caskets at the same time. Having to close his grandmother's casket and going to the next one to close his grandfather's casket, that's a lot.

"But Jayden is a quarterback, and he took it as, 'The world doesn't care what I have to go through.' Whether he's dying inside or happy, he continued to do it."

For Daniels, leaving Arizona State for LSU was the best decision he could've made.

Jayden's Father Played College Football

Javon raised Jayden to be a cornerback when he was little, the same position he played in college. Javon played at Washington and then Iowa State. You can still see Javon's player profile on the Cyclones website.

But even at a young age, Jayden always wanted the ball in his hands. And with his speed and arm talent, it was apparent by his time at Cajon High School he'd be special. He was the No. 1 dual-threat quarterback in the 2019 class.

Now at LSU, Daniels has put together a Heisman-worthy season. Though LSU is out of College Football Playoff contention, Daniels is still the favorite to win college football's most prestigious award.

You can expect his mother, Regina, to be right by his side in New York when it's announced. She's arguably his biggest fan, as evidenced by the number of LSU-related posts on her Instagram.

Daniels' career has been a whirlwind, one filled with tragedy and triumph. And come Saturday night, his grandparents will be smiling over him.

MORE: Why LSU's Jayden Daniels Already Has the Heisman Trophy Locked Up