His mom – The Denver Post

Mike McDaniel and his mom, Donna, were unable to talk when they connected on a FaceTime call that early February afternoon. The tears were raw and emotions real as they tried to collect themselves while flipping through a mental scrapbook of triumphs and setbacks.

At 2:46 p.m., Mike was offered the Miami Dolphins’ head coaching job, the culmination of a journey that started as an autograph-seeking kid in Greeley. One minute later, he called Donna.

Everything went from back-of-mind to front-of-mind in seconds. Mostly growing up in a single-parent home, not knowing his birth father. A childhood without significant financial means. Taking out thousands of dollars in student loans to attend Yale. Working as a Broncos intern in 2005. Being fired by the Houston Texans because of unreliability. Confronting his alcohol problem while an Atlanta Falcons assistant. Gaining traction on the San Francisco 49ers’ staff.

“A complete immersion into emotion,” Mike said during an interview with The Denver Post this offseason. “It was hard to think about all the years and all the experiences back to the days when it was her and her alone that knew who I was and was motivating me to be great. The (emotions) all came at once during that call.”

At home in The Villages, Fla., Donna had waited anxiously. From the time he was given his first football helmet and lined the inside with team stickers and wrote in marker, “I will make it!” with an arrow toward the NFL logo, this league was the goal.

“We both just cried,” she said. “I knew if he interviewed, he would nail it because he knows what he’s talking about. I knew if somebody took a chance on him, they wouldn’t be sorry.”

The chance begins Sunday when the Dolphins host the New England Patriots. McDaniel, 39, is the pro football equivalent of an overnight sensation 18 years in the making, and the Dolphins — no playoff wins since 2001, the league’s second-longest drought — could be the beneficiary of his knowledge, passion and humor.

“Mike didn’t start on a base,” said Air Force coach Troy Calhoun, who worked with McDaniel on the Broncos and Texans coaching staffs. “He was in the on-deck circle, eager and hopeful. Sheer will and work ethic was how he was able to get to the plate.”

His mom has been the rock through the entire journey.

“Obsessed with football”

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