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Its not every day an NFL Hall of Famer strolls through Joint Base Lewis-McChord.
Dozens of professional football players, currently playing and retired, visit JBLM every year to meet service members and their families. But NFL fans especially Minnesota Vikings fans had a real treat Feb. 16 and 17 when Randall McDaniel stopped by the base.
The former offensive lineman for the Vikings made his first stop at a military installation, JBLM, since retirement. McDaniel visited JBLM Fire Station 105, signed autographs at the Lewis Exchange, toured Chinook helicopters, even fit his 6-foot-4 frame in the pilot seat, and visited with the Warrior Transition Battalion Feb. 16. The following day he signed autographs at the McChord Exchange for a substantial crowd of fans.
Of the more than 22,000 football players that have played in the NFL, just 272 have been inducted into the Hall of Fame. McDaniel became inductee No. 249 in the class of 2009.
I think its very good for the base to have Hall of Fame players come by, Col. David Rude said.
Rude is a football fanatic from Minnesota and attended both of McDaniels signings. He had multiple mini helmets autographed for family members and for the second signing day he brought his 10-year-old daughter Jacquilyn, also a Minnesota fan, to meet McDaniel.
McDaniel has worked with Snowball Express, an organization that supports children of fallen service members, and through his contacts arranged a visit to JBLM.
McDaniel wore his gold Hall of Fame jacket and Hall of Fame ring to both signings.
People have seen the jersey and you can buy them in the stores, but when do people get to see a Hall of Fame jacket? McDaniel said. I thought that would be special.
David Albertson, a staff sergeant with the 62nd Airlift Wing, was born and raised in Minnesota. He said he converted his wife, Courtney, from a Dallas Cowboys fan to a Vikings fan. The couple brought their 2-month-old, Tanner, to meet his first celebrity.
One family came through the line with about 30 of the 50 different football cards of McDaniel spanning his 13-year career. He recalled at which stadium each card photo was taken and made fun of himself looking back at his younger self.
During his NFL career McDaniel visited a military base once when he was in Hawaii for the Pro Bowl, but since he retired he has spent more time with the military and their families.
I dont want people to forget what (the military) is doing, he said.