The Buffalo Bills and Tennessee Titans played in the Hall of Fame Game on Sunday night to begin the 2009 football season. While that game represents a new beginning for the league this year, it also capped off a weekend that represented the culmination of a handful of legendary careers.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame class of 2009 was enshrined in Canton, Ohio, this past weekend, and former Vikings OG Randall McDaniel represented the Vikings well, as he always has. McDaniel has the credentials of one of the best OGs in league history, but you’d never know that by talking to him. He’s the ultimate humble Hall of Famer, spending his retirement in classrooms and with family rather than in luxurious mansions or fancy Vegas getaways. And that’s just the kind of person he’s always been.
“I don’t think I’ve ever met a more genuine person and somebody that cares more about people than Randall,” former Vikings RB Robert Smith said at a post-enshrinement celebration. “It’s always amazed me because he was so fierce on the field yet so nice and approachable off the field. He’s just an incredible person.”
McDaniel’s demeanor as a humble and grounded person couldn’t have been more evident than during his enshrinement speech, a moment that could easily tempt one to be anything but humble. McDaniel opened his speech by saying “Wow, it’s impossible to imagine a moment like this. It really defies words, and that’s never a good thing when you’re about to give a speech. As an offensive lineman, I don’t really feel comfortable up here without the other four guys lined up next to me. But if I start to struggle, I’m counting on (Gary) Zimmerman to come up with some more linemen and bail me out.”
When the topic of being a Hall of Famer was broached with McDaniel in the months and weeks leading up to his induction, he was always quick to mention his teammates and to say that his induction into the Pro Football Hall of Fame was just as much a tribute to his teammates as it was his individual accomplishments. So it was in fitting style, then, that after the enshrinement McDaniel was able to celebrate with many of his former teammates.
McDaniel’s post-enshrinement celebration was hosted by the Wilf family on the hallowed grounds of the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Guests included former teammates, family and friends of McDaniel, along with other Vikings and NFL alumni and many others who were near and dear to the Hall of Famer’s heart.
The Wilf family went all out to celebrate the occasion, throwing a party that included live music, cuisine with a southwestern flare (McDaniel is from Arizona), a game room for children and creative displays of photos and artifacts representing his football career.
Here are a few highlights from McDaniel’s enshrinement speech…
-- McDaniel was enshrined along with Bob Hayes, Bruce Smith, Derrick Thomas, Ralph Wilson, Jr. and Rod Woodson.
-- McDaniel’s high school athletics director, OK Fulton, presented McDaniel for enshrinement. McDaniel said that Fulton “believed in me before I believed in myself.”
-- McDaniel thanked his parents for teaching him “all that was important in life.”
-- Having earned a scholarship to play football at Arizona State University, McDaniel said football allowed him to become the first person in his family to earn a college degree.
-- “I will always bleed purple and gold,” McDaniel said. He also thanked Minnesotans for their kindness and support.
-- McDaniel compared playing offensive line to teaching, saying “I do find many similarities between playing on the offensive line and working in the classroom. On the line, you have a bunch of regular guys who bring their lunch pails to work, do a tough job without much fanfare or glory, they pretty much go unnoticed unless something goes wrong, and yet, if they weren’t there, nothing else would be possible. Life as an educator is quite similar. You bring your lunch pail to work, do an extremely tough job without much fanfare or glory, and like an offensive linemen you typically go unnoticed unless something goes wrong, and yet, without teachers, nothing much would be possible.”
-- McDaniel spent several minutes thanking his family. He gave a touching tribute to his wife, saying she completed his life, and also his position coach with the Vikings, John Michels.