10.8.09

Day 242. The Lineman One.

This past weekend marked the annual ceremony of a class induction into the NFL Hall of Fame. 6 people were inducted. That brings the total number of members of the Hall of Fame to just over 240. To put this in perspective, it has been recorded that over 23,000 individuals have played in an NFL football game. To be inducted into the Hall of Fame is an honor - a lifetime achievement award, an acknowledgment that you "changed the game".

Six men. Only six. Two posthumously. As I watched the ceremony this weekend the theme that resonated again and again wasn't what these men did on the field - of course that was significant - but it was about taking notice of who they were each as men.

One of the men inducted was Randall McDaniel. He was an offensive lineman. If you know anything about football, you know that this is a thankless role. You're never noticed as a "star" - you don't get press coverage, you don't get interviewed, and you only get attention when something goes wrong - such as a busted play or a sack on your quarterback. But what you do get, when you really look at the men in this role, is someone who understands more than most the true meaning of the word TEAM. You can't do your job well unless you are working as a unit with your other linemen. You sacrifice yourself for the glory and protection of others. Your public honor is often found in the highlights others receive notice for. When you get inducted into the Hall of Fame as a lineman, you've REALLY done something great.

This much was obvious as Randall spoke but, after this weekend, this man is truly one of my heroes. I am in awe of him, and let me tell you why. The minute this man became a professional football player he volunteered as a student teacher in local schools. The minute he retired he got his substitute teacher license. He now works as a special education teacher for a local school in Arizona. In his free time, he and his wife run a community service program that brings youth into the community 6 times a month to learn the importance of giving back to the community. While so many other professional athletes - rightly so - use their success to gain recognition and lucrative business opportunities, Randall went back to what he believed most passionately - education. To use Randall's words like linemen, teachers "bring their lunch pail to work, do extremely important work...often go unnoticed unless something goes wrong, and yet without them, nothing much would be possible." This is why he is comfortable in the classroom - he's in the trenches, fighting the good fight. He is focused on family, those who made him who he is, helping his children, his peers in football and education and everyone who is a part of his team in life.

He shared a funny story - his kids in class now would say "did you play football?" Randall would answer, "a little bit". Kids would ask, "were you any good?" he would answer "I did alright". When word got out that he was a little bit better than that, everyone wanted his autograph - at the end of the year he gives those out to his students...AFTER they earn it.

This man is tremendous. His heart is on display - and it is rich with compassion, love and giving. Pleas consider watching his speech - it is 15 minutes long and, while he is a lineman, and probably not most comfortable talking in front of a couple hundred thousand people (would you be?) his words are true and rich with knowledge.

I could go on and on about how I feel about this guy. This man has made the most of his life and through his football and his teaching shows every day the importance of teamwork and education and giving back. Mr. McDaniel, congratulations on your well deserved honor. You were an amazing football player and an even more awe-inspiring individual.

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