By Ivan Carter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Friday, November 24, 2006
MEMPHIS, Nov. 25 -- Antonio Daniels was at home watching television on Nov. 7 with his wife, Sonia, when a story came on detailing the death of University of Miami football player Bryan Pata, who was shot and killed in the parking lot of his apartment complex near campus.
When Daniels saw film of Pata's grieving mother, Jeannette Pata, he experienced a flashback to a family tragedy of his own -- the death of his older brother Chris, then a starting center on the University of Dayton basketball team, when Daniels was a junior at Bowling Green.
Chris Daniels died of a heart attack on Feb. 8, 1996, and Antonio said he's never gotten over the shock of that day. The news of Pata's death and the image of his brokenhearted mother brought those memories rushing back.
"I was sitting there and all I could think about was his mother," Daniels said. "They were talking about how Miami was going to go ahead and play that next week, and all I thought was, 'What about her?' I thought about my own mother and what my family went through when my brother died. What happens is, life goes on and people forget about the family and the fact that the family is still struggling and life just goes on.
"The next day I'm sitting there getting dressed to leave for a game and I told my wife: 'This is crazy. People are going on with their lives and imagine how his mother must feel.' "
Daniels, who honors his late brother with three tattoos, decided to do something. The next day, through Wizards public relations director Zack Bolno, Daniels reached out to the Pata family and asked what he could do. When Daniels learned that the family has struggled financially, he offered $10,000 to help cover funeral expenses.
A funeral service was held for Pata on Nov. 14, and Daniels has kept in touch with the family through one of Pata's brothers, Edwin, who is a senior walk-on tight end at Florida State.
Bryan Pata, 22, was a senior defensive lineman who started eight games for the Hurricanes and was expected to be taken in next spring's NFL draft. No arrests have been made and the case remains under investigation.
Daniels's gift was not publicized by the Pata family, and Daniels informed only his wife, Bolno and teammate Jarvis Hayes. When asked about the donation Wednesday night, Daniels initially was reluctant to discuss it.
"I didn't do it for any reason other than the fact that it was just important for them to know that somebody out there cares, and I just wanted them to know that whatever I could do to help, I was there, whether it was financially or just being there to talk," Daniels said. "It was just a situation where it really just touched my heart, especially seeing his mom like that. I remember seeing my own mother in that situation and I know what that's like."
Daniels said thoughts of his brother are never far from his mind. A page on his Web site, at http://www.antoniodaniels.com, is dedicated to Chris, and he said he speaks to his brother every night before going to bed. The Atlantic 10 Conference's most improved player award is named after Chris Daniels.
"I think about him every single day," Daniels said. "I'll always carry a piece of him with me."
Wizards Note: After losses on consecutive nights at Dallas and Houston, the Wizards (4-7) practiced in Houston on Thursday before flying to Memphis for Friday night's game against the struggling Grizzlies (2-9). The game will continue a stretch of four games in five nights that concludes against the Detroit Pistons at Verizon Center on Saturday night.
"We have to get a win and salvage something out of this trip," said forward Caron Butler, who is the only Wizard who has scored in double figures in every game this season. "That's what we're all about right now, just getting a win."