Within his first three days on campus at Lehigh University, Andrew Daniels, ’10, joined the school paper as a first-year staff writer.
Now, eleven years later, Daniels travels the world freelancing for Playboy magazine and watching the Amazon ratings for his newest book, “The Barstool Book of Sports: Stats, Stories, and Other Stuff for Drunken Debate,” rise.
Daniels, a former editor in chief of The Brown and White, said his time spent climbing the ranks of the paper prepared him for writing outside of college in ways he couldn’t have expected as a first-year in 2006.
“It was great,” Daniels said. “It’s the best kind of experience you can have outside of class. There’s no better experience than on-the-job training.”
During his senior year, Daniels operated as the main executive for The Brown and White, all while completing an internship with Men’s Health. Later, Daniels was offered a first full-time position at the magazine as a web-only writer, fueling his passion to write about pop culture, sports and anything in between.
“Pretty much anything a guy was interested in was kind of my beat,” he said.
Daniels said the most rewarding part about working for Men’s Health right out of college was having a say in the content and overall shape of the brand. Responsibility aside, his time at Men’s Health enabled him to do things he never would have dreamed of doing, like attending two Super Bowl games.
He now works as a freelancer, remotely writing for Playboy and working on his own content marketing and editing business. While he may not get as many Super Bowl press passes as he did at Men’s Health, Daniels said his travel-log beat for Playboy never bores.
“Earlier this year I got to go to Mexico to go drink tequila for four days with Patron, which was pretty cool,” he said. “In fact, actually on Sunday, I’m flying to Italy to go drink Campari for a week in Sicily.”
But when he’s not travelling the world and tossing back drinks, Daniels said he spends a majority of his time arguing with his friends about sports — cue the writing process of his first book.
“Obviously, it’s a subject that’s very near and dear to my heart, because I love sports and I love drinking and I love arguing about sports while I drink,” Daniels said. “I approached the story with that kind of sensibility: as a fan first, and someone who loves to talk shit and argue with their friends about this kind of stuff.”
Daniels said the book jumps in between topics and mimics the experience of scrolling through a website like Twitter. Readers can hash out debates at the bar or at home, making it a fun read regardless of the setting.
Yet an effortless read doesn’t necessarily equate to an effortless writing process. Between the 100-page book proposal, intricate page-mapping and research-intensive content, Daniels said the making of the book itself took him nearly two years. And while still working full time at Men’s Health, the process was grueling at times.
“I would come home every night and write upstairs for three or four hours,” Daniels said. “A lot of my weekends were sort of sucked up with this thing.”
To Daniels, however, the occasional toil of the process was worth the gratification that followed.
“I sacrificed a bit, but it was a good sacrifice because this part is fun,” Daniels said. “Talking about it, promoting it. Everyone will tell you that writing itself kind of sucks sometimes but having written something is always rewarding. The rush and the thrill never wears off.”
Having the willpower necessary to write a book requires grit that not all writers possess coming out of college. To the journalism professors who taught Daniels, however, it was only a matter of time before Daniels’ name would be featured on the cover of a book.
“Andrew was an entrepreneur before he knew what an entrepreneur was,” said Jack Lule, the chair of the journalism and communications department. “He’s just a really gifted writer. Technically, he writes really well, but he’s also just a really interesting writer.”
In addition to his writing, Lule said Daniels’ initiative always stood out. Whether it was for The Brown and White or a project outside of class, Daniels was constantly coming up with new ideas, so Lule was not surprised he had the idea to write his own book.
Jeremy Littau, an associate professor of journalism and communication who also taught Daniels, said he never missed an opportunity to brand himself. Be it writing an edgy pop culture piece or strictly sporting dark sunglasses in an otherwise professional video for class, Daniels’ commitment to being himself gave him the needed edge to succeed outside of college.
Littau said despite only having him in class for one year, he learned a lot from Daniels about the benefit of nonconformity.
“He pushed me to give him some freedom to operate, and he was right,” Littau said. “He was always his own guy, and he had a grasp for when to play within the rules and when to break them.”
Daniels operates as a self-motivated writer, as heralded by his professors at Lehigh. This is not to say, however, that he worked alone. Rather, Daniels said his favorite part of the book was crowd-sourcing and getting ideas from his friends and mentors.
“This is all we do, all day long,” Daniels said. “We argue about sports and the dumbest stuff that’s so fun to talk about. I used a lot of their ideas and fleshed them out, but it wouldn’t be possible without those guys. It was definitely a friend-influenced book.”
Daniels said he was especially proud to have made something that was completely his own. While writing stories for Men’s Health and other publications was rewarding in its own way, he said the feeling of having a distinguished work under his name is unlike any other.
“Opening that box of books when it came to me,” Daniels said, “it’s probably the coolest, proudest moment I’ve had yet and might ever have.”