Brenden Daley lived and breathed football.
In the spring, Daley helped Ventura College football players prepare for the upcoming season as the Pirates’ strength and conditioning coach.
When the former Moorpark High and University of Hawaii linebacker got an offer to play for the Bismarck Bucks in the Champions Indoor Football League in June, he jumped at the chance to continue playing in the wilds of North Dakota.
Daley had stints with the Atlanta Falcons in the NFL and the Los Angeles Kiss of the Arena Football League. He led Moorpark High’s defense during the Musketeers’ run to the 2008 CIF-Southern Section Northern Division championship game against St. Bonaventure.
Ventura College football head coach Steve Mooshagian believed in the linebacker, who earned all-conference first team honors with the Bucks this season. The linebacker was a natural, on the gridiron and in the locker room.
“I told him at that time that he had a future if he wanted to stick to coaching,” Mooshagian said. “He told me, ‘Coach, I’m just not ready to give up on my dream.’”
Daley, the son of Thousand Oaks residents Bruce and Debbie Daley, also made a promise to his former coach that day in June.
“He said, ‘I promise, if I’m 30 years old and I haven’t made it, I’ll coach,’” Mooshagian said.
Daley will never get that second chance to play in the NFL. He’ll never even get the opportunity to coach again.
Daley died of an alleged brain aneurysm on Nov. 22, one day before Thanksgiving.
He was 26 years old.
Friends and former teammates expressed their grief on social media, sharing their fondest memories of Daley, whom many described as a kind man with a personality larger than his 6-foot-3, 250-pound frame.
The Bismarck Bucks released this statement to the public: “Brenden was indeed the face of our organization. His personality was truly one of a kind. He was also the backbone of our franchise, as well. No one worked harder, and no one believed in the Bucks more than No. 9. His loss is beyond measure.”
“It just shows the impact he had on everybody,” Moorpark head coach Ryan Huisenga said. “Everybody basically says the same thing, which is how positive he was. He always seemed to have a smile on his face.”
Mooshagian remembers a young man full of energy.
“I don’t know if I could drink two pots of coffee and even come close to (the energy) he had,” Mooshagian said of Daley, who graduated from Moorpark in 2009.
Mooshagian heard the news of Daley’s death from CJ Wilford, an assistant coach at Southern Utah University and the son of Moorpark defensive coordinator Ron Wilford.
“I thought he was calling me about recruiting our kids,” Mooshagian said. “He told me he just got some terrible news, and I was the first guy he thought to call. My heart sunk.
“It was one of those phone calls you dread ever having to receive. . . . We just didn’t expect it because we just saw him on Saturday.”
Daley was in the Ventura College locker room on Nov. 18 before the Pirates’ postseason opener against Riverside.
“He came in the locker room, turned the music on and he had all the guys jumping around,” Mooshagian said. “It was just typical Brenden.”
While many admired Daley’s energy and enthusiasm, his talent on the gridiron was legendary.
Rob Dearborn, Moorpark’s athletic director who lived down the street from the Daley family, said Brenden Daley transformed from a friendly teddy bear off the field to a rabid tackling machine on the football field.
“He was intimidating to look at,” Dearborn said. “He was a big guy and he was in great shape. When he hugged you, it made you feel like a tiny human. He was just tenacious on the football field.”
Mooshagian recalled Daley’s last game in a Ventura College uniform. The Pirate played with the flu and a 102-degree fever. Daley was so ill that day, he vomited on the sidelines between series.
“He didn’t want to miss the game,” Mooshagian said. “That’s just the kind of guy he was.”
Mooshagian said he recently shared Daley stories with former Hawaii head coach Norm Chow. Chow recalled the time he was forced to suspend Daley for showing up late to a practice.
“He questioned whether he did the right thing,” Mooshagian said of Chow. “He said, ‘This is either going to make (Daley) or break him.’”
Chow said Daley learned from experience and was never late to another practice. The coach told Mooshagian that Daley went on to become the heart and soul of Hawaii.
Dearborn said Daley was gracious to everyone who helped him throughout his playing career.
“He’s been out of high school for more than seven years now, and he still thanks you for being part of his life,” Dearborn said. “He was that way with everybody. . . . He had the unique ability to make everybody feel special.”
Daley loved to compete. He also loved to have fun.
He showed his playful side while speaking to a reporter at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser in 2013. Daley, who is two minutes older than his twin brother, Kyle, used his birth to describe just how competitive he was.
“I had to be the older brother. I had to fight,” Brenden Daley said. “I had to get across the umbilical cord. I had to swim over my brother. . . . It was actually a C-section so I had to jump out. But, yes, I’m very competitive. I had to be first.”
Daley also showed glimmers of his personality during his segments on the HBO series “Hard Knocks,” where he flashed his trademark smile and played the ukulele during training camp with the Falcons.
Mooshagian said it’s a shame Daley was taken from this earth at such a young age.
“It’s a huge loss to the people that will never get the chance to interact with him,” the coach said. “For someone that was 26 years old, he made such a mark in such a short time. Most people would take a lifetime to inspire as many people as he did in 26 years.”
Daley won’t soon be forgotten at Ventura College.
The school has renamed the “Ventura College Football Family Fighting Spirit Award” to the “Ventura College Football Family Brenden Daley Memorial Fighting Spirit Award.”
“He exemplifies everything you want in that award,” Mooshagian said of Daley. “There’s never going to be anybody that exemplifies what this award is supposed to be than Brenden Daley.”
Email Jonathan Andrade at firstname.lastname@example.org.