By Lindsey Young, For Vikings.com
It's not every day that a Hall of Fame NFL lineman will pour you coffee, but that is exactly what happened Saturday morning at Winter Park.
As part of the Vikings Homecoming celebration, a number of former Vikings gathered at the training facility to watch the current team practice in the field house as well as catch up with one another. As they entered the cafeteria, a few players were greeted by none other than Hall of Fame guard Randall McDaniel (1988-99). McDaniel is an athlete, an elementary school teacher and — at least on Saturday — a stand-in barista.
"I do like my coffee," McDaniel said, laughing. "If there's a coffee machine anywhere near, I'm going to figure out how to work it so I can at least have my two pots in the morning."
And how does McDaniel take his own cup of joe? With cream, of course.
"Being a big guy like I am, everyone would assume I just like regular coffee, dark roast or something," McDaniel said, "but I have to put the vanilla creamer in it. It has to have a little bit of sweetness, because I used to eat all that candy."
Anyone who knows McDaniel will tell you he likes relating with people. Serving up coffee is just one way he enjoyed getting to reconnect with former teammates as well as guys who came before or after him on the Vikings roster.
"This is great," McDaniel said while on the sidelines during practice. "It's always great when you get back together; it's just fun to see the guys that you haven't seen in a while. It's great to catch up on what they're doing and where they've been and what's going on in their lives. That's what it's all about."
Take former running back Harold Morrow (1996-02), for example. He stood next to McDaniel, exchanging old stories, while introducing his 1-year old son to McDaniel for the first time. The two teammates laughed as they recalled locker room dynamics, Morrow recounting memories of "tough love" from the offensive line.
"Randall was a bully," said Morrow, chuckling. "The [linemen] were much stronger than Moe Williams and I, and we used to see those guys in the weight room and we'd try to take off running — you just know they're going to roughhouse you."
McDaniel smiled and shook his head, saying, "I'm going to be honest about it. The linemen did kind of run things around here […] we had a little bit of a reputation."
While McDaniel remained in to the Twin Cities following his retirement, many players traveled from current residences all over the country. For Morrow, this was his first visit back to Minnesota since he left in 2002. He echoed the sentiments of many, soaking in the chance to reminisce with friends.
"Just getting off the plane, this felt like home," Morrow said. "Just being able to mix and mingle with the guys, getting to catch up, that's what I mainly came for. The fellowship — that's what I miss the most about football."
Mark Mullaney, defensive end for Minnesota from 1975 to 1987, made his first visit to Winter Park since 1988. He sat with former teammate Ed Marinaro during a catered lunch, sharing memories and proudly telling stories to his grandsons, one of which wore a child-sized Mullaney jersey, the white No. 77 covered with freshly inked autographs.
"Adrian [Peterson], Teddy [Bridgewater], Harrison [Smith], Chad [Greenway], all those guys — they were really outgoing and polite and gracious," Mullaney said. "They treated my grandboys like their own; it was really fun."
Mullaney and other alumni enjoyed time to chat with current Vikings following practice, and several of the players signed autographs. A handful meandered the sidelines following practice, enjoying the opportunity to speak with men who previously played their positions with Minnesota.
Smith chatted casually with former All-Pro safeties Robert Griffith (1994-01) and Hall of Famer Paul Krause (1968-79), who still holds an NFL record with 81 career interceptions. Smith swapped experiences and absorbed plenty of insight from two of the best in franchise history.
Former linebacker Matt Blair (1974-85) spoke with Greenway, a veteran linebacker with whom he has touched base with over the years. Blair ranks second in franchise history in tackles, and Greenway ranks fourth.
"That's my guy," Blair said, smiling. "Number 52."
Terry Brown (1972-75), former safety, spent some time with Peterson, as they both played college ball in Oklahoma — Brown for Oklahoma State and Peterson for University of Oklahoma. Brown said he owed the running back a thank you.
"For 40 years, I tried to get the Oklahoma people to like Minnesota, and they never would," Brown explained. "AD came up here, and within six months everybody in the state was wearing purple. So I thanked him for that today."
While the weekend of events, which also included a tour of U.S. Bank Stadium and attending the Vikings win over the Chargers, marked the first time back in years for some alumni, others make the visit regularly.
Griffith, now living in Los Angeles, said he returns to Minnesota at least once a year to reconnect with friends, but this weekend proved even more special in getting to see so many former Vikings all together. Griffith remains close with former tight end Steve Jordan (1982-94), who enjoyed mingling with Vikings all along the chronological spectrum.
"You get a chance to reconnect with some of your old teammates and guys that came even before or after you," Jordan said. "Guys you've had the chance to admire and see on the TV and on the field. I've also enjoyed reconnecting with the staff [that's still here] as well."
At the end of the day, it didn't matter which years they played, which coach they played under, or what position they lined up at. What did matter was the team they all called family: the Minnesota Vikings.
"It's kind of a reunion for us," Krause said. "It's a camaraderie that we have put together with all our friends. That's why I'm here."
Well, that … and to get a cup of coffee from Randall McDaniel.