INDIANAPOLIS — Mike McDaniel is the latest Most Interesting Man in the NFL and his childhood upbringing in Greeley, Aurora and Smoky Hill High School only partly explains it.
Five years after serving as a Broncos’ ball boy, McDaniel was 22 years old, fresh off his history degree at Yale, where he also was a backup receiver. With the help of his stepfather at the time, Broncos’ video operations manager Gary McCune, McDaniel landed as an offensive intern for the Broncos and head coach Mike Shanahan.
That year, the Broncos went 13-3, and beat the back-to-back Super Bowl-champion New England Patriots in a second-round playoff game, only to lose at home to a young Ben Roethlisberger and the Pittsburgh Steelers in the AFC Championship Game.
McDaniel, now 38 and the Miami Dolphins’ head coach, spoke of the impact Shanahan had on him during his initial season as an professional coach at his NFL Combine press conference Wednesday
“The entire season, I can remember like it was yesterday,’’ McDaniel said of 2005. “I was convinced we were winning the Super Bowl. His bravado and his conviction, and he set people’s ambition – we were winning the Super Bowl, we were that good."
“We went to the AFC Championship Game and we lost to the Pittsburgh Steelers," McDaniel continued. "But about five or six years down the road as I had a better scope of the National Football League in general, I looked at the player by player on that roster and I was like, ‘Wow. We were a much better team than we were individuals.’’’
Indeed, it was a great year for the likes of quarterback Jake Plummer, running back Mike Anderson, receivers Rod Smith and Ashley Lelie and tight end Jeb Putzier. The defensive identity was the Brown-cos – a bunch of Cleveland Browns castoffs like Courtney Brown and Gerard Warren – although future Hall of Famers Champ Bailey and John Lynch anchored the secondary.
Charlie Adams, who never had a catch in his first two NFL seasons, beat out Jerry Rice for the No. 3 receiver spot. Adams had 21 catches in 2005 and never had a catch again. With the exception of Bailey, none of those players approached their 2005 production again. The point McDaniel was making was Shanahan coached that team up.
“That idea of raising people’s ambition and leading by … empowering people with confidence, that will be forever lasting for me as a coach,’’ McDaniel said. “As I walk the hallways at Miami Gardens these past couple weeks, it has resonated with me, those days.”
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