Count Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon among them. Also, running back Warrick Dunn should be added to the list. What list? A list of those NFL players who should send thank you cards to Class of 2009 enshrinee Randall McDaniel. The 6’3”, 276-pound guard led the way for six different 1,000-yard rushing performances and protected Moon and two other quarterbacks for a cumulative five separate 3,000-yard seasons.
McDaniel was a tight end and linebacker in high school. He was converted to guard during his freshman year at Arizona State reportedly learning to play the position in just eight days. And learn it, he did. By his junior season, he was named first-team All-Pac 10 and a honorable mention All-America choice. He was voted first-team All-America in his senior season in 1987.
A gifted athlete with incredible speed for a player of his size, McDaniel ran a 4.5 40 which was the fastest time of any college lineman that year. He was the fourth offensive lineman, and the first guard, taken in the 1988 NFL Draft when the Minnesota Vikings used its first round pick, 19th overall, on McDaniel.
It didn’t take long for the Vikings to reap the benefits of their scouting. McDaniel earned his first NFL start in Week 2 of his rookie season. When an injury shelved Dave Huffman, McDaniel was inserted into the starting lineup at left guard. The Vikings dominated the Patriots 36-6 that day. For McDaniel, it marked a permanent spot as a starter in the NFL. Other than being slowed briefly by a knee injury during his second NFL season, McDaniel remained a starter for the rest of his Hall of Fame career. In fact, it was his retirement that ended a string of 202 consecutive starts.
Equally adept at leading as a pulling guard or doing what was necessary to protect his quarterback, McDaniel anchored a unit that helped the Vikings remain as one of the league’s elite teams during the 1990s. The pinnacle of Minnesota’s offensive production came during the 1998 NFL season. The team posted a 15-1 regular season record and was widely regarded as the team to beat that year. Unfortunately, Minnesota was upset in overtime of the NFC championship game. Despite the sting of the playoff loss, the fact of what the high-flying Vikings attack accomplished that season cannot be overlooked.
The Vikings scored a then NFL record 556 points eclipsing the record of 541 points scored by the 1983 Washington Redskins. Leading the way was McDaniel who gave quarterback Randall Cunningham enough time to pass for 3,704 yards and 34 TDs that year. Cunningham’s touchdown total and his 106.0 rating were the best of his 16-season NFL career. His passing yardage was the second highest single-season total of his career. McDaniel surrendered only 1.5 sacks the entire season.
He also helped running back Robert Smith eclipse the 1,000-yard mark for the second straight year. Smith averaged a hefty 4.8-yard per carry and scored 6 rushing touchdowns. Leroy Hoard kicked in with an additional 479 yards and nine TDs. The rushing total by the tandem was a club record.
McDaniel never lost his edge. He continued to rate among the best guards in the NFL even after he moved on to finish his career with two final seasons as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. In his first year with the Bucs he was named to yet another Pro Bowl after he opened holes for running back Warrick Dunn who rushed for 1,133 yards. It marked the highest total of Dunn’s career to that point. McDaniel was integral in a record-setting performance against the Cowboys that year. In the game played in early December, Dunn rushed for a career-high 210 yards and the Bucs set a team mark of 250 rushing yards.
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