Thursday's preseason opener for the Las Vegas Raiders will have a little more meaning for the team's new head coach.
The annual Pro Football Hall of Fame Game, an exhibition game leading up to the Class of 2022's enshrinement, will be a battle between the Silver and Black and the Jacksonville Jaguars. The last time Josh McDaniels entered Tom Benson Hall of Fame Stadium as a competitor, he was the starting quarterback for the Canton McKinley Bulldogs.
McDaniels grew up playing football in Canton, Ohio, and was coached by his father Thom McDaniels, the most-winningest coach in Canton McKinley school history. The elder McDaniels will now have the opportunity to see his son coach, just as he did, in the same stadium.
"It'll be really an experience. Surreal is probably a good word for it," Josh McDaniels on returning home to coach. "Thinking that he was coaching me and correcting me and calling plays for me many, many years ago. … My family has spent a lot of nights there over many, many years, so it's a special place for us."
McDaniels stated he's just as excited to take his team to the Hall of Fame museum as he is to coach the exhibition game. He was also pleasantly surprised by the amount of Raiders that haven't been to the museum before. He's looking forward to witnessing his players experience the greatness of the Hall for the first time.
"They're in this fraternity and it's a special place," said McDaniels. "I've been through it, I can't tell you how many times, and each time I go through it, I see something different or new or they've added to it. There's such an element of history and tradition. You just get excited because it's such an important part of our game. To be able to represent the league and our team, going there, playing with Richard [Seymour] and Cliff [Branch] going in, it's just an exciting opportunity for us."
Ameer Abdullah, along with his head coach, is excited to get to Canton as well. This will be his second time at the Hall of Fame, though he's never played in the annual preseason game. He hopes that seeing the museum once again can give himself and his teammates some added motivation moving forward in their careers.
"Just seeing all the guys who have cemented their legacy, all the different statues that are up in Canton, I think it'll be good for a lot of young guys and it's good for guys who also, later in their career like myself, to kind of start setting goals, start setting expectations for yourself," the running back said. "No better way to do it than playing a game and also getting the inspiration of seeing the Hall of Fame."
The main objective hasn't been lost on McDaniels through the emotions of going back home. This first preseason game will be a great opportunity for McDaniels to further evaluate his roster going into the 2022 season. Nevertheless, with all of the added components of the game for the coach, it will be a moment he won't take for granted.
"I played all my games in this stadium. It was never lost on me that this is a special place," said McDaniels. "They have helmets on the double yellow lines when you're driving down the road. You pass the Hall of Fame every day you go to school in high school. You're playing right there and you can see [the Hall] over the stands. It's a really cool place to grow up.
"It was a great place to be a young boy that loved football, and what a blessing that I have an opportunity to come back there."
View exclusive photos of the Silver and Black's 2022 Training Camp practice.