I thought the best speech Saturday at the Pro Football Hall of Fame inductions was given by former Vikings guard Randall McDaniel.

"I just figured, if you say what you have to say and you speak from the heart, you can get that message out there," the 12-time Pro Bowl selection said.

Having watched John Michels coach the offensive line from his days with Bud Grant at Winnipeg in the Canadian Football League and later with the Vikings, it was great to hear McDaniel not forget Michels, a great line coach but an even better person.

McDaniel's first introduction to Michels was after the guard had been selected No. 19 overall out of Arizona State by the Vikings in the first round of the 1988 NFL draft. A nervous McDaniels heard Michels tell him, "Rookies don't start on my offensive line."

Well, McDaniel did start as a rookie.

"There are plenty of Johnny stories. ... I mean, he works you hard, he really demands the best out of you and all his players that he's had through the years," McDaniel told the big Hall of Fame crowd about Michels. "He really loves the guys, and I just wanted him to know that. Because, John, he is like the second father that you have when you end up in those situations. I just wanted to say thank you to him, and that's the best way I knew how to do it.

"That's the part that the public got to see, when he was always riding us and demanding the best out of us. But when we were in those meetings and we would go out to dinner and do things, Johnny and Ann were always right there with us. They went out to dinner. We had get-togethers at other guys' houses. And we always invited Johnny because we knew, off the field or in the casual time, we all really were just like a big family together."

Former Vikings coach Jerry Burns will tell you that, in his opinion, McDaniel was the best guard to ever play the game. And the offensive lines McDaniel played on will go down as some of the best in Vikings history.

"We had a bunch of great guys that I got to play with and be around," McDaniel said. "The fun part about this whole weekend is all those guys were here [in Canton, Ohio]. Zimm [Gary Zimmerman] was here, because he went in [the Hall of Fame] last year and he was back. Kirk Lowdermilk came. Todd Steussie, Brian Habib, Todd Kalis, Jeff Christy, Adam Schreiber. ... There were 10 of us here and we all got together and had a great time. This just gave us another opportunity to get together.

"All of us still keep in touch. Lowdermilk lives here. All of us guys keep in touch and we always know what's going on in each other's lives."

How did McDaniel describe Saturday's experience?

"I wouldn't know if I would call it a thrill," he said. "The thrill was the experience of being here and now having that moniker 'Hall of Famer' in front of the name, but you know, me and public speaking, we don't get along very well. But for this event, I figured, I only have to do it once. So get up there and say what you want to say, and like the guys said, speak from your heart what you want to say and things will work out from there."

When I presented Grant at the 1994 Hall of Fame inductions, every inductee who got up cried at one point in the speech. I was sitting next to former Dallas coach Tom Landry, and I told him Grant wouldn't break down. But he did.

"I got close," McDaniel said. "I put a pause in my speech at a moment, just so I could get myself together, because I knew if I would have let it go, I wouldn't have been able to finish the speech and get to finish the parts I wanted to say. So I had a pause there for a moment to catch my composure and then I continued on."

With the Hall of Fame over, McDaniel will return to his teaching job.

"When that day comes up, I'll be there meeting the kids when they get off the bus," he said. "I am now out in West Tonka, at Hilltop Elementary. I'll probably be working second and third grade again. I'm looking forward to when school starts, so I can kind of relax a little bit again."

Yes, McDaniel was a great man on the football field, but those who know him will tell you he is a better person.

Rambis set

The Timberwolves finally have selected a head coach, Lakers assistant Kurt Rambis. He is expected to sign a four-year deal for more than $8 million today and be introduced to Wolves fans on Tuesday.

By the way, Rambis has filled in as Lakers head coach on a few occasions. One was in 1999, when Del Harris was fired and Rambis compiled a 24-13 record as interim coach.

He also took over the top spot at times when Lakers coach Phil Jackson has had health problems.


Eric Decker told the Chicago Tribune that he consulted Twins catcher Joe Mauer on if he should play football, baseball or both. Decker has played both sports for the Gophers. Mauer had a football scholarship offer from Florida State before the Twins made him the first overall pick in the 2001 first-year player draft. Decker's conversation with Mauer convinced him he should concentrate on football.

While coach Tim Brewster believes Trey Davis can do a satisfactory job at center for the Gophers football team, the back problem suffered by Ryan Wynn is a big blow to the Gophers. Wynn was a starting tackle last year and one of the best offensive linemen in the Big Ten, and he had done a great job at center in spring practice. ... On Saturday night, Brewster held his annual party for the seniors to talk about leadership and other such things. This team has 25 seniors, the most in recent years.

Former Gophers pitcher John Gaub, who is now healthy after having arm problems, has a 0.52 ERA in 14 appearances since the Cubs promoted him to Class AAA Des Moines. On Sunday, Iowa beat Las Vegas 5-4 in a game played at Wrigley Field and Gaub pitched two-thirds of an inning.

Former Gopher and Wild player Wyatt Smith, a Thief River Falls native, signed a one-year contract with the defending Stanley Cup champion Pittsburgh Penguins. ... Zach Parise, a native of Faribault and a former Shattuck St. Mary's star, ranked No. 1 on NHL.com's list of U.S.-born players in the game today. Cloquet native Jamie Langenbrunner ranked seventh. ... Michael Forney, a Thief River Falls native, signed a multiyear contract with the Atlanta Thrashers. Forney, the Thrashers' third-round selection in the 2006 NHL draft, led the Green Bay Gamblers of the United States Hockey League with 60 points (26-34--60) in 59 games in 2008-09.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on WCCO AM-830 at 6:40, 7:40 and 8:40 a.m. and on his Podcast once a week at www.startribune.com/sidcast. shartman@startribune.com