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Jon Kendle is Director of Archives and Football Information at the Pro Football Hall of Fame. His biweekly columns tell unique and interesting stories starting from the league’s founding in downtown Canton in 1920 to the present day.
The Minnesota Vikings finished at the bottom of the NFC Central Division with a 3-13 record in 1984. They spent the next three seasons hovering around the .500 mark. Even though the Vikings made it to the NFC Championship game during the 1987 season, at 8-7, they did so despite having the weakest record of any playoff team. This landed them the 19th pick overall in the 1988 National Football League Draft.
In just two seasons, 1986-87, Minnesota watched its total offensive ranking drop from fourth to 15th in the NFL. Having spent four of their last five first-round draft picks on the defensive side of the ball, the Vikings began looking at prospects to help get their offense back on track.
They found that player in guard Randall McDaniel, out of Arizona State. At 6-foot-4 and 270 pounds, McDaniel was the fourth offensive lineman and first guard drafted in 1988. Most NFL scouts agreed that Randall was the most athletic offensive lineman in the draft. In fact, before he enrolled at Arizona State to play football, McDaniel was a highly recruited basketball standout averaging nearly 25 points a game in high school. His passion for football was evident though, and quickly he began getting recognized for his outstanding play at tight end.
McDaniel saw limited action at the position as a freshman for the Sun Devils. In his sophomore season, the coaching staff switched him to guard where he started the next 39 consecutive games. By the time his college career came to an end, he had won first team All-Pac 10 honors as well as the Morris Trophy given to the conference’s most outstanding offensive lineman.
His desire to succeed was only equaled by his athleticism and size. “I take advantage of my quickness whenever they allow me to pull on sweep plays,” McDaniel said. “I’m able to use my speed downfield. I can get on a defensive back better than some other guards; I can be running three-quarters speed and they think I’m just some big offensive lineman they can slip around, then I open up full speed and I’m right there with them.”
“Any time a guy weighing 270 pounds runs into a guy weighing 190 pounds, he should be able to run right over him. That’s what I do. I use my size and quickness and I think that’s what sets me apart from other lineman.”
As a rookie, McDaniel provided everything the Vikings were looking for out of their first-round pick. He earned All-Rookie and second team All-NFC honors after becoming a starter in Week 2 of the season. He started the final 15 games at left guard and the offense rebounded, climbing back into the top 10, ranking seventh in NFL total offense. The team went 11-5 and made its second straight playoff appearance. The next season, Minnesota saw even more from its future star as McDaniel led the way to its first NFC Central Division title in nine seasons.
During his 14-year playing career, McDaniel started 186 straight games, was selected All-Pro nine times, named to the NFL’s All-Decade Team of the 1990s, was voted to 12 consecutive trips to the Pro Bowl and was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 2009. Following his football career, McDaniel utilizes the values he learned by playing the game to impact children’s lives as an educator at Neill Elementary School in Crystal, Minn.
In a countdown to the NFL’s Centennial celebration on Sept. 17, 2020, Pro Football Hall of Fame Archivist Jon Kendle shares unique and interesting stories starting from the league’s founding in downtown Canton to the present day.