Patrick Reusse: Randall McDaniel, a quiet kind of class

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 15, 2006 - 9:45 PM

Randall McDaniel remains low-key in his life after the NFL, but he admits that a Hall of Fame induction would be worth shouting about.

Mike Tice described Randall McDaniel as the Vikings' "first Randy Moss." What he meant was getting McDaniel with the 19th overall selection in the 1988 NFL draft was the equivalent of landing Moss with the 21st a decade later.

Tice was McDaniel's line coach in January 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."

Left guard.

"He's the best to ever play that position," Vikings quarterback Brad Johnson said.

Johnson wasn't talking about McDaniel as the best to play left guard for the Vikings. He wasn't talking about McDaniel as the best he has seen in 15 NFL seasons.

"Best ever ... all-time," he said. "Couldn't have been anyone this good."

McDaniel will become the latest member of the Vikings' Ring of Honor during a halftime ceremony Sunday at the Metrodome. And, there's a strong assumption this will be followed in February with McDaniel being named to the 2007 Pro Football Hall of Fame class in his first year of eligibility.

Will McDaniel spend a lot of time between now and the Saturday before the Super Bowl pacing nervously, waiting for the result of Hall of Fame deliberations to be announced?

"I've never been that way," McDaniel said. "I loved the game. I went out and played it to the best of my ability. I always treated it as a game.

"With this Hall of Fame stuff ... more people talk about it than I do. My thing is, if it happens, you won't be at the house to see me jump up and down for those brief moments, but I probably would."

There were many truths in those soft words McDaniel uttered during a session with a small media group this week at Winter Park.

"Never been that way." Some great players don't look for attention. McDaniel went beyond. He tried to avoid it.

"Loved the game." He missed two games in 1989 when teammate Todd Kalis crashed into his knee. He finished his career in Tampa Bay in 2001 with 202 consecutive starts. And, except for the brief time when he was rehabbing the sore knee in '89, he participated in every Vikings practice for 12 seasons at Winter Park and in Mankato.

"Media won't see me jump up and down." He was a thoroughly private man as a player and has remained so for the five years since his career ended.

There are exceptions to that last point. Numerous youngsters who have gone through elementary schools in the Robbinsdale system have gotten to know "Mr. McDaniel" very well.

"Our students love him," said Nancy Benz, an administrator at Neill Elementary. "The funniest thing is watching the kindergartners. They can't get over the size [16] of his feet. They keep looking at his feet, then look up at him with these wide eyes."

Benz used to work in training camp for the Vikings. She was McDaniel's connection to the Robbinsdale schools. He now works two days at Forest, two at Neill and volunteers on Fridays at Lakeview.

McDaniel works both with students who have fallen behind and with students who are ahead of the curve and need to be challenged. He also serves as a substitute teacher at the elementary schools.

A couple of years ago, the administrators at Sandburg Middle School asked McDaniel and his wife, Marianne, if they could get involved with students in the sixth, seventh and eighth grades.

Randall and Marianne started "Team McDaniel" for the 2005-06 school year. They asked students to join them in community service: volunteering at an assisted-living facility, a food shelf and other outlets.

There were 36 students in the Sandburg group last year, and now the number is in the 80s.

"They need to want to go out there and do it," Randall McDaniel said. "Most kids always want to know what can you do for me, if I come and do this for you? This is more [for a student] to be a positive role model in the community."

McDaniel comes from Arizona. Why did Randall and Marianne choose the Twin Cities for their post-football home rather than, say, Scottsdale?

"Think about it," he said. "I was born and raised out there in the desert. You get kind of tired of seeing just the cactus and lizards ... and the heat. We still go back and visit family and friends for a month a year.

"The people [in Minnesota] were so great. Everyone treated me nicely, and this became home."

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