McDaniel’s path to the Dolphins started with a lost hat as a fan

Miami Dolphins fan Brandon Martinez walks into the practice facility to watch practice for the NFL football team, Saturday, July 30, 2022, in Miami Gardens, Florida.  (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)

Miami Dolphins fan Brandon Martinez walks into the practice facility to watch practice for the NFL football team, Saturday, July 30, 2022, in Miami Gardens, Florida. (AP Photo/Marta Lavandier)


Having fans at training camp is no problem for Miami Dolphins coach Mike McDaniel.

It’s part of his story, a story that tells how a lost hat led him to practice in front of Dolphins fans for the first time Saturday at training camp.

It was 1993 and the Denver Broncos were holding training camp in Greeley, Colorado. McDaniel was 10, Greeley was home at the time, and he was obsessed with the Broncos.

One day, while scrambling to get an autograph from a player named Robert Delpino, McDaniel’s Charlotte Hornets hat was knocked off, never to be found again.

Broncos video coordinator Gary McCune drove to a nearby mall and bought a new hat to take to the very distraught boy the next day. McCune met McDaniel’s mother. They got married, a heartwarming story that made headlines in Denver.

McDaniel’s obsession with football grew steadily. He eventually became a Broncos ball boy. The rest, as they say, is history.

“I love having fans in practice,” McDaniel said. “It’s kind of true in my heart. Because the loop is literally complete. Training at training camp in Greeley, Colorado for the Denver Broncos is where it all started for me. There’s a connection that I think you can have with the fans.

Like all teams, the Dolphins will do a handful of fan-open practices during training camp. In the super-secret world of the NFL, prying eyes are rarely a good thing, which is why teams err on the side of caution on public days and tend to keep things relatively basic.

“For all the opponents watching, nothing you see today will ever race again,” McDaniel said. “It’s a challenge. You have to think about it. And you just have to be very aware of it. Look, people are going to get an idea of ​​who you are and how you play. And a lot of people are doing things similar in the National Football League in terms of diet, but if there are certain things you have planned for certain opponents, you have to plan around that.

“The good thing is when you won’t be able to control what’s happening in the interwebs. So you adapt, to some degree.”

That said, the Dolphins were happy to put on a show.

They may be around half a century away from their last championship – plans were unveiled on Saturday for the anniversary celebration of the perfect 1972 season – but the support never seems to be lacking. Season tickets will sell out for the first time in team history over the next few days, and the Dolphins will soon have their first-ever ticket waitlist.

McDaniel made sure players are aware of the support, noting that they shouldn’t feel entitled to it automatically.

“Our fans always come with the energy no matter what we do on the field,” linebacker Jerome Baker said. “I always appreciate that the fans, the community and the organization, they’re all right behind us overall.”

The Dolphins did their part to fuel the energy of the first open session on Saturday. When the team exited the indoor facility and came out to stretch, they were greeted by a standing ovation from fans who had started arriving over 2 hours early for seats in the stands. It didn’t take long for wide receiver Tyreek Hill to annoy fans with a backflip and a short speech.

“Prepare your popcorn,” Hill said.

Offensive lineman Blaise Andries then crashed a couple of drink cans into his head, and practice was on. Fans cheered stretching, cheered Tua Tagovailoa completing short passes, completing 30-yard passes. They cheered just about anything.

“It’s a competitive advantage,” McDaniel said. “That’s kind of the reason why you do what you do. … It’s just another reason for us to comb through our daily process, to make sure we’re repaying them for their investment in us.

And maybe there was a 10-year-old kid in the stands who, 29 years from now, will be coaching in the NFL.

“That’s why I didn’t allow any ambitious kids to train,” McDaniel said.


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