Randall McDaniel made a name for himself in Minnesota, but the lessons that shaped him into the generous man he is today were taught in Avondale.
Despite living in Minnesota, the 48-year-old hasn’t forgotten about his roots. McDaniel recently visited Avondale to play with childhood friends in a golf tournament that benefitted his home town, including Avondale Agua Fria High.
Arizona high school football fans first caught a glimpse of McDaniel, a 2009 Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee, at Agua Fria. The Minnesota Vikings’ former immovable force is the first Arizona high school graduate to join the NFL’s Hall of Fame. This year, azcentral.com’s Arizona High School Sports Hall of Fame selection committee voted McDaniel into its hall. Compared with the NFL’s hall, azcentral.com’s hall is modest but still rich with some of Arizona’s greats.
McDaniel’s parents, Lela and Robert, preached the value of an education and doing what’s right, and former Agua Fria Principal O.K. Fulton taught McDaniel the importance of nurturing students.
As a special-education instructor, McDaniel is applying the lessons he learned in his teaching and also running an after-school service program, Team McDaniel, along with his wife, Marianne, in Minnesota.
“As a teacher you need to be careful what you say and do,” said Fulton, McDaniel’s presenter during the 2009 Hall of Fame ceremony. “You never know the type of influence you might have on a man’s life, and Randall is the best example.”
With great role models in place, McDaniel went to work, using his athletic gifts to stand out in multiple sports during his four years at Agua Fria. He is known as one of the great left guards to play the game, but he never played that position until his sophomore season at Arizona State. He at first believed that he was destined to play the position of his first football hero, Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow.
McDaniel garnered All-State honors twice in football and basketball and was also a track and field star, setting a school record in the 100-meter dash his senior year.
“I used to throw the discus and the shot put and then hurry up and line up to run,” said McDaniel, who as a senior weighed 230 pounds and was 6 feet 4. “When I lined up, the (shorter) runners would look at me strange and say, ‘What are you doing here?’ I would tell them that I was here to run, too.”
And run he did, finishing sixth at state in the 100-meter dash his senior year (1983) after posting a 10.64 mark. McDaniel noted that playing multiple sports benefitted him. Today, the philosophy is to specialize in one sport.
“When you pigeonhole an athlete it hurts them,” McDaniel said. “It’s not right to specialize. Let them be well-rounded. It worked for me.”
McDaniel’s 12 consecutive Pro Bowl appearances (1990-2001) is a record. He played 12 seasons with the Vikings before ending his 14-year career with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Avondale named a big sports complex after him.
“I was honored that they did that,” McDaniel said. “When I drive by it (sports complex) sometimes I can’t believe they would do something like that. But I understand. I was a kid from Avondale who showed you can do something. Other kids may see it and say, ‘If he can do it, then so can I.”