Monday, August 3, 2009

Paying Respect

I love how the NFL kicks off their year with the Hall of Fame induction. It's a great way to start a new season--paying respect to the players, coaches, and owners who came before to pave the way, and to remind everyone of the league's history and roots.

This year is another phenomenal class:

Bob Hayes WR for the Cowboys, Niners
Randall McDaniel OG for the Vikings, Bucs
Bruce Smith DE for the Bills, Redskins
Derrick Thomas LB for the Chiefs
Ralph Wilson Jr. Owner of the Bills and co-founder of the AFL
Rod Woodson CB/S for the Steelers, Niners, Ravens, and Raiders

As the resident Viking fan/apologist/critic, I'm thrilled to see McDaniel make the Hall. It almost excuses the voters for not making him a first-ballot inductee last year. But he's in, and he deserves it--he helped define the position for a decade and was synonymous with the Vikings throughout his tenure with the Purple.

The Minneapolis StarTribune ran a great article on him this past Sunday. Unfortunately, I can't link it here because it is one of the articles in the Strib's new "special offline content only for paper subscribers" business strategy. It's a great read, but I suspect many of the same stories will come out during the induction speech this weekend, so I won't dwell on the details of what a great athlete he was as a kid.

What impresses me a ton, though, is how he has transitioned out of football into "real life" as seamlessly as any player I've ever seen. He moved straight from the NFL into teaching elementary school. Power to him--if I had several million dollars in the bank from my career, that's about the last thing I'd want to do.

But not only does he do it, but he loves it and is great at it. The Strib article had a great story from when he was in college and was already helping out at local schools near Arizona State. He used to go into classrooms to read to them. The feedback he got from the kids? "Reading is for women and sissies." At least that's what he heard until he started reading to them--having a starting player from the local college football team turned some attitudes around.

I'm thrilled to see him get recognized for his on-field accomplishments, but his off-field accomplishments are the even bigger story here. Not just because of his involvement in the community, but for showing other players how to adapt to life outside the stadium.


  1. Welcome to the blog, James.

    I think what's nice about McDaniel is seeing an interior lineman get moved in so quickly. It seems to me with the greater media access that stats play an increasingly large role in the determination of "greatness," and that's going to wind up hurting these guys a lot down the line.

    He was a dominant OL, he deserves his spot...

  2. I know we've talked about this for years, but the OL is always underrated on a team. Even when lines do get some love, it almost always starts with the left tackle.

    McDaniel made the guys on both sides of him better. Todd Steussie made the Pro Bowl next to McDaniel. And though Jeff Christy and Matt Birk were certainly great centers in their own right, McDaniel's ability to plug the middle allowed the Vikings to utilize the center position to pull and get out as a lead tackler more than just about any team I've seen.

    Which, by the way, reminds me that I haven't told you how great the Ravens' signing of Birk is. He's never quite been the same after his hernia surgery, but he's still pretty darn good, will play his heart out, and will be a leader both on the field and in the locker room. I'm disappointed the Vikings let him go.

  3. Welcome James, great post.

    I think Birk was exactly the player the Ravens wanted, with a very young O-line otherwise. 3rd year players everywhere else, except for the rookie RT. I read some comments over the offseason from Cam Cameron, that the Ravens were a little held back in their offensive play calling last season, not because of the rookie QB, but because they were worried about setting their protections with the young O-line. Which might be a slap against Jason Brown, a player I like. I was disappointed with losing Brown's power and youth from the line: but if leadership & play recognition are important qualities in a center with a young O-line, the Ravens couldn't possibly have done any better.

  4. Yeah, I agree on Birk. I think he's actually the perfect guy to have in if we were going to lose Brown. He probably isn't as much a mauler, but he's definitely far more of a leader. I expect it'll be a smooth transition.


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