Unpredictable is perhaps the best adjective to sum up the rise of Division III John Carroll Blue Streaks teammates Josh McDaniels, Dave Ziegler and Houston Texans General Manager Nick Caserio.
"I'd be lying if I said to anybody that any one of us expected this," Texans GM Nick Caserio told Raiders.com. "We're all beyond blessed to be in the situation that we're in. Quite frankly, when we were sitting there on campus in University Heights, Ohio, I don't think any of us were saying in 2022 that we were going to have the opportunity to run an NFL franchise. "
The word opportunity came up a lot from Caserio – who firmly believes that the decisions the three of them have made with the opportunities given have led them to the NFL from the small school in northeast Ohio. Caserio and McDaniels first became acquainted in 1995, both competed for the starting quarterback job as McDaniels was a high school standout from Canton McKinley and Caserio a redshirt freshman.
The competition was won by Caserio, but McDaniels, as the ultimate competitor and team player, didn't sulk behind the defeat to his teammate.
He used it as an opportunity to reinvent himself in the offense and contribute to his team. The next season, McDaniels switched to wide receiver – turning him from Caserio's backup to one of his top threats in the passing game. This decision would also evolve their relationship as not only teammates, but as friends.
"I think it speaks to the selflessness of him as a person when it was presented to him to change positions and move to receiver," said Caserio. "I think one of the things about him is just how smart he is and his overall understanding of the game, having played the quarterback position. So from my perspective, to have a player like that playing receiver who could see the game similarly, there was certainly a lot of comfort in that."
"The way Josh handled it, he couldn't of handled it any better," continued Caserio. "Football is competitive sport. ... I think we all have a certain amount of pride, but we all had a mutual respect for each other. That, I would say, is selfless nature. That selfless act speaks to who Josh is. He was willing and open-minded to doing it and I certainly have an appreciation for that."
The transition to wide receiver put McDaniels in the same unit as Dave Ziegler, who arrived to John Carroll a year after him. The duo put forth a great product on the field for Caserio to work with: McDaniels at wideout and Ziegler as a top Division III slot receiver and returner with several school records still to his name.
"Dave ended up being a really good player for our team," Caserio recalled. "Was a dual returner, kickoff returner, punt returner. Really good player, really good receiver and really good academically."
McDaniels, several years later, brought his old quarterback into the NFL and into the Patriots scouting department. Having been promoted from personal assistant to defensive assistant in 2002, McDaniels placed a call to Caserio – who was working as a graduate assistant at Central Michigan – giving him an offer he couldn't refuse.
Fast forward 10 years, the two had won three Super Bowls together, with McDaniels becoming the Patriots offensive coordinator and Caserio as New England's director of player personnel. Ziegler ended up joining his two John Carroll teammates in 2013, after three seasons with the Denver Broncos.
Ziegler rose up the ranks of the Patriots scouting department, helping develop three more Super Bowl rosters with Caserio and ultimately becoming Caserio's successor once he left New England for his current role with the Texans.
"Dave carved out a nice career for himself in New England. He was really an invaluable part of what we were doing on a personnel and scouting side," said Caserio. "Focused initially on pro scouting but he ended up getting involved from a draft perspective, worked out a number of different players, defensive backs."
After nearly 30 years of being closely associated with McDaniels and Ziegler on the collegiate and professional level, Caserio now finds himself as an adversary for the two. His Houston Texans will have a road trip in this upcoming 2022 season to Las Vegas for a showdown against a Raiders team currently being assembled by the new head coach/general manager duo.
"We always have tried to take advantage of our opportunity and I think it starts with working hard and not being afraid to do just about anything to insure success," said Caserio. "I think all of us, at some point in life, it's about opportunity.
"So we're given an opportunity and then once you get in the door, ultimately it's going to come down to your individual performance on a day-to-day basis. ... I think all of us had the opportunity to be given more because we showed that we could handle a certain amount of work on a day to day basis, week-to-week basis.
Despite being on opposite sides, the respect for his two former teammates and colleagues is still there, with great pride in what they've all been able to accomplish since their first opportunity came to be back in Ohio.
"Both individuals are incredibly smart, worked very hard and I think they work well together – which is why I think their relationship in Vegas has the opportunity to get off on the right foot from the get-go," Caserio said. "My relationship with both goes beyond football, it extends personally. Those relationships will hopefully continue here as we both move forward in our careers."
View photos of General Manager Dave Ziegler and Head Coach Josh McDaniels' first day on the job as members of the Silver and Black.