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Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Randall McDaniel Hall of Fame 09

This Spring I received an invitation to attend Randall McDaniels Induction to the Hall of Fame and I must say, that this was quiet an honor. Seeing that the only time I coached Randall was during the field goal meetings and practices.

However, I had a lot of contact with him on and off the field because he and my long snapper Mike Morris hung out together.

In 1993 I joined Head Coach Dennis Green and the Minnesota Vikings as their Special Teams Coach. The Vikings were a team on the rise and one of the marquee players was their All-Pro and Pro Bowl guard Randall McDaniel.

Before I actually met Randall McDaniel in person for the first time I envisioned meeting a really big and intimidating looking man. Only because most of the offensive linemen in the 90's were now 300 pounds and plus big men.

Randall McDaniel stepped into my office at Winter Park one day with my long snapper Mike (Super Star) Morris. Mike Morris or Super Star is now working for KFAN, a radio sports talk show in Minneapolis from 6 to 10:00 AM.

I looked at both men and couldn't believe that Randall was not a bigger man in stature. My snapper, Mike Morris was 6'5 and 28o pounds and Randall was about 6'4 and 275 pounds. Both loved to lift weights and were very physically fit and well put together.

As I watched Randall in practice and in games he was one of those types of men that was not intimidating big but was extremely powerful. He was a former wrestler and had excellent balance and played with leverage.

Randall and Mike were best of friends during training camp and the football season. They were roommates in training camp and also on the road. It was always an adventure doing bed check. Beware when you entered their room because you didn't know what to expect. Army men all over the floor playing war games or them getting ready to play a prank on a fellow teammate.

The two were always joking around or planning something. One day after practice I was talking to Mike about finding a guy on the team that would be quick and strong that could line up on the long snapper and run over him and get to the punter.

Randall McDaniel was listening to the conversation and said "how about me?" Randall said I'm quick and strong. Mike Morris made some comment that I don't remember however Randall said to Mike, "get down in your stance and snap the ball." When Mike snapped the ball to me Randall McDaniel launched Mike Morris about three or four feet up into the air and about three yards backwards.

Mike couldn't believe what just happened to him and my mouth dropped and I couldn't believe what I had just witnessed. Mike Morris 6'5 and 280 pounds flying through the air like he was a sack of potatoes. We all laughed our butts off and talked about it for days.

After seeing what Randall had done to Mike I actually went to Coach Green and asked him if I could use Randall on my Punt and Field Goal Block Teams. Coach Green looked at me like he thought I was crazy. I told him about the situation that had taken place on the practice field with Randall and Mike however he still said 'NO'! He said Randall was too valuable to the offense and we didn't need to try something with our ALL-PRO player.

During the six years Randall played and I coached with the Minnesota Vikings the one thing I can say really impressed me about this young man, he was always a gentleman and he and his wife donated a lot of time to kids.

Randall a Gentle Giant with Kids

Randall McDaniel was always a Hall of Famer to many kids. I can remember when I would ask Randall what he was doing on his day off and he would respond by telling me that he was going to a school to read and talk to kids on Tuesday, a players day off.

Congratulations to Randall McDaniel and his wife Marianne for the honor that they both have received by the Pro Football Hall of Fame Committee.

My wife Michelle and I have just finished driving from Pittsburgh, PA to Akron where we are staying in the Holiday Inn in Akron and look forward to attending all the events associated with the Pro Football Hall of Fame Enshrinement.

Read Viking Update's Story about Randall McDaniel:

These days in the NFL that's a phrase that seems to be used a lot. The future Hall of Famer, or a lock for the Hall of Fame, certain first ballot Hall of Famer... 2007 made you wonder if there is such a thing when it comes to O-Linemen. That was the first year that guard, Randall McDaniel was eligible for the Hall of Fame, and the lock for the hall, the certain first ballot guy, got snubbed.

We're talking about a man who holds the NFL record for consecutive Pro-Bowls with 12, was a 10 time All-Pro, started 202 consecutive games, changed his stance in order to play through a knee injury, and dominated from the beginning to the end of his career. In short, there's a reason people referred to him as a sure fire Hall of Famer.

Mike Tice was McDaniel's line coach in 1999 when he said: "Randall was passed over by a lot of teams. He came in and started dominating. The only difference between McDaniel then and Moss now is that Randall plays an unglorified position." QB Brad Johnson agreed, saying "He's the best to ever play that position," "Best ever ... all-time," he said. "Couldn't have been anyone this good."

Long-time NFL Teammate and 7 year room-mate of McDaniel's', Mike Morris had this to say about him: "I've been around the NFL a long time, in my eyes, only John Hannah played offensive guard with the effectiveness and longevity of McDaniel. He's so smart. So good. Plays hurt. Always shows up. Randall is a long-running wonder who's lost almost nothing."

Not only was he a great player, and a reliable rock in the Minnesota offence for all those years, but he did it his own way. McDaniel's stance is from no football textbook you'll ever see, but it worked. In 1989 he tweaked his knee after being run into by a teammate, and he manipulated his stance so as to take the pressure off it. He found it worked so well, that he stuck with it throughout his career.

Another quirk to the McDaniel portrait was when he lined up for the Vikings as a FB in short yardage packages. If it was scary enough for opposing D-linemen to take on the man as a Guard, spare a thought for the poor Linebackers or Safeties trying to fill the hole to seal up the run with big Randall steaming through it leading the way...

Though the Hall of Fame aren't supposed to take personality or off-field issues into consideration, they selected Harry Carson based largely on the leadership and the man he was, on top of the football player. In this respect McDaniel was a silent leader of the Vikings teams he was on. A far cry from the media-hungry players of today, McDaniel never sought the spotlight, and avoided it when he could. He never bad-mouthed the team, believing firmly in his mother's words when she told him that if he can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all.

McDaniel can still be seen driving the Mercedes he got for his first pro-bowl trip as he works with kids in his retirement.

One has to ask questions about the Hall of Fame selection process when someone like McDaniel, as dominant a Guard as has ever played the game, a leader on and off the field, and a great man on top of it all, gets snubbed in his first year of eligibility. How many more worthy people can there be, and what extra is the man supposed to have in order to qualify?

Perhaps it's time to recognise that NFL Guards, whilst they may not be the most crucial position in the game, deserve a spot in the Hall when they've been dominant from the first play of their careers to the last.

Randall missed out in 2007, but is a finalist again in 2008, and the Diner's not going to let him be passed over again!

This Next Article is By DAVE CAMPBELL, AP Sports Writer Dave Campbell, Ap Sports Writer – Tue Aug 4

MINNEAPOLIS – Randall McDaniel still looks as if he could lower his 6-foot-4, 275-pound frame into that strange, off-balance stance and line up at left guard, poised to plow into the guy on the other side.

He has other work to do, though.

Fitting with his preference to be in the background during a 14-year NFL career along the relative anonymity of the offensive line, he's now a full-time basic skills instructor at an elementary school in a Minneapolis suburb spending his time with second-graders born far too late to have seen his success with the Minnesota Vikings.

In the classroom, he's known simply as Mr. McDaniel.

"It's the hardest job you'll ever love," said McDaniel, one of this year's Pro Football Hall of Fame inductees.

He's teaching instead of blocking, but it's again impossible for him to avoid the attention and the praise.

After a league-record 12 straight trips to the Pro Bowl and seven times as an Associated Press first team All-Pro, McDaniel is bound this weekend for Canton, Ohio, to join the game's greats.

Despite the age of his students, well, it was inevitable the full story would emerge.

"A lot of the kids figured out I used to play football," McDaniel said in a recent interview with The AP. "Once the Hall of Fame announcement came out, they were all like, 'Wow, you were really good!'"

Yes, indeed. He was durable, for one. McDaniel and another Hall of Fame guard, Bruce Matthews, are the only two NFL players who appeared in every game during the 1990s.

He was athletic, taking part in baseball, basketball and track as a kid and arriving at Arizona State as a tight end, before blossoming into a guard who was so quick he sometimes outpaced the running back he was pulling for down field. The Vikings chose him with the 19th pick in the first round in 1988.

McDaniel owned a special mix of power and intelligence, too, as opponents could attest over 12 seasons with the Vikings and two with Tampa Bay.

"He'd block the mess out of you," said motormouth former Buccaneers defensive tackle Warren Sapp, who faced McDaniel many times but never was able to distract with his infamous trash talk. "I would either drag you into talking with me or I would make you hate me talking at you so much that I knew it bothered you. I couldn't do that to him. He wouldn't talk and wouldn't let me know that it was bothering him. He'd just keep playing, keep blocking."

The lasting image of McDaniel's career is that awkward stance, a technique no sane coach would ever endorse.

Here's how it started: Teammate Todd Kalis accidentally rolled into McDaniel's knee early in his second season with Minnesota, and he was supposed to be out for a month.

Well, McDaniel's replacement was struggling during a game two weeks later, and offensive line coach John Michels screamed at him to take his place. Wearing a bulky brace, McDaniel couldn't get his leg to bend the way he needed to set up in his stance.

So he improvised, turning his left leg out and laying it straight and as low as he could with his ankle essentially flat against the turf.

"I thought I was just going to try it for that game," McDaniel recalled, "but then the defensive linemen made a comment to me: 'I have no clue what you're doing. I can't tell if you're pulling, passing or coming at me.' I thought, 'Heck, I'm never getting out of this.' It never stopped me from doing what I needed to do."

Matt Birk, now a six-time Pro Bowl center with the Baltimore Ravens, learned a lot from McDaniel during his first two years with the Vikings — including some stern advice.

"One day I was screwing around and imitating his stance," Birk said. "He said, 'Don't you ever try to do that again, because you can never do what I do.' So I never tried that again."

Rebuke aside, Birk appreciated McDaniel's willingness to welcome him and treat a rookie with respect.

"He was a great player, and that wasn't by accident. Off the field, he was just a great guy," Birk said.

The value McDaniel has long had for education will be evident at this weekend's induction ceremony: He invited O.K. Fulton, his former athletic director and assistant principal from Agua Fria Union High School in the Phoenix area, to introduce him.

Whether it's helping kids at Hilltop Primary School or organizing community-service outings for area middle-schoolers with his wife, Marianne, McDaniel is just as busy as he was as a player.

"I was always one of those people that led by example. The best way to show people how to do things is to get out there and do it yourself," said McDaniel, who's now 44.

Simone Reed struggled with reading in third grade, when McDaniel worked in her classroom. He gave her a math tip, too: Eight times eight equals 64, his old uniform number.

"He was always willing to give you a hand to do whatever you wanted to do. He just wanted to help you, even though he was a football star," said Reed, who — 10 years later — is headed to Southern Illinois University to study film.

Nancy Benz, the principal at Hilltop, first invited McDaniel to volunteer with one of her classes at a previous school more than a decade ago. When he retired in 2002, he received a provisional teaching certificate and two years later was working full time.

"He just kind of adopted the cause," Benz said. "He's had a really positive influence on the kids. It's been fun to watch him."

The Vikings enjoyed watching him, too. He took over as their starter in the second game of his first season and became an anchor of one of the NFL's best offenses while playing the game within a game that exists at the line.

"The competition, I loved it," he said. "The offensive line, I loved that unit, playing as one. We were like brothers in there."

AP Sports Writer Fred Goodall in Tampa, Fla., contributed to this report.

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