CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — When Daniel Imatorbhebhe takes the field Friday night at Wisconsin, it will mark the beginning of the end for the Illinois tight end. The Southern California grad transfer arrived in Champaign this summer to play his sixth and final year of college football, joining his younger brother Josh. And after missing the past two years due to injury, there’s no better place Daniel would rather be than next to his brother for their final season together.
“As days went on, it just became clearer like, ‘Man, I need to do this. This is where I feel like I’m supposed to be,'” Daniel Imatorbhebhe said. “I shared it with (Josh), he was the first one I told. He was like, ‘Bro, I didn’t want to say anything but in my heart I’m hearing the same thing. I heard the same thing but I didn’t want to tell you.’”
The Imatorbhebhe’s spent three years together at USC, both battling injuries and inconsistent playing time as a result. Josh shined last year in his first season with the Illini, leading the team in receptions, yards and touchdown catches. The 6-foot-2 wide out didn’t want to pressure his brother into coming to Champaign but also was discouraging it. And while they both should only add to the Illinois offense, they’re very different off the field.
“When I got in people expected me and Josh to be 1A/1B but in all reality, we’re so different,” Daniel said. “He’s more like fire and I’m like water and so even as athletes, we’re way different but at the same time, we are really intentional about operating where we know, we’re on the same time. His success is my success, my success is his success.”
Daniel makes a three-headed monster at tight end for the Illini, joining Georgia transfer Luke Ford and incumbent starter Daniel Barker. Imatorbhebhe has proved he can play at the Power 5 level, appearing in 22 games for his career, with nine starts. He caught 25 passes for 394 yards and four touchdowns.
“I know I wouldn’t be as successful as I am now had it not been for him paving the way, blazing the trail,” said Josh. “Everything he did, I wanted to do it a little better. He was already good. He was already excelling at everything he did, whether it be in the classroom, whether it was on the basketball court — when we were younger we played basketball. When I learned to be better than him, I was head and shoulders ahead of people in my grade. Had I not had him to set the example, I definitely wouldn’t have had that kind of drive to be the best.”