Oklahoma football: The Wahoo McDaniel story
Wahoo McDaniel’s name came up the other night on the radio. We were talking about some of OU football’s wildest characters, although with a name like Wahoo McDaniel, he could come up in conversation for no reason whatsoever.
McDaniel is remembered mostly for running from Norman to Chickasha, apparently on a dare, and for becoming a professional wrestler after his pro football days.
McDaniel, who was born in Bernice, Oklahoma, but raised in Midland, Texas, died in 2002 at age 63.
“He was a wild, crazy Indian,” said his daughter, Nicky Rowe. “He was bigger than life. He was just amazing.”
McDaniel, whose real name was Ed, was a linebacker who returned a punt 91 yards for a touchdown against Iowa State in 1958. He played in the AFL or NFL from 1960-69, with the Dolphins, Jets, Cowboys and Broncos. Then he continued a pro wrestling career that continued into the 1990s.
"I was a football player first and foremost, who entered wrestling to supplement my income," McDaniel once said. “For six months out of the year, I was a football player and for the other six months I wrestled."
Long-time reader and historian Don Rominger, who coached at a variety of schools in Oklahoma, wrote me about McDaniel, and I thought I would share it.
“I heard your exchange on the radio regarding Wahoo McDaniel,” Rominger wrote. “According to my (OU) friends, Wahoo was poison and the first nail that was pulled to bring the Wilkinson ship down.
“As for the running episode. The run from Norman to Chickasha was prompted by a prior incident at OBU in January of 1959, when a freshman cross country runner from Canada named Hylke van der Waal took off one evening to run from OBU to Oklahoma City. Van der Waal was a goofball who ran around in mid-winter with no shirt and attempted to climb into a window of the freshman girls' dorm one night. He had come to OBU with another Canadian distance man.
“I was also a living at Storer Hall on the OBU campus when an OBU student disc jockey for KGFF radio called KOMA to pick up the story, which was carried by the all night jocks until the crazy Canadian disappeared into the night. Anyway, Wahoo was attempting to better the stunt.
“The story is that Coach Wilkinson did not wish to recruit Wahoo, who was a star fullback in 1955 at Midland High and a Choctaw Indian with roots in Oklahoma. However, highly placed oil interests in west Texas supposedly prevailed, and Bud signed Wahoo. McDaniel could not beat out Prentice Gautt at fullback and was moved around from position to position; evidently voicing his displeasure and drinking too much. Wahoo McDaniel was an occasional starter at end but never reached his celebrated status except off the field of play and later as a wrestler.
“Wahoo was followed in his off-based antics by John Flynn in 1962 and Joe Don Looney in 1962-63; and OU was never the same.
“By the way, I had contact with Joe Don Looney in spring of 1963 when my freshman distance runner stayed the night in Jeff House prior to the state Meet of Champions. From all accounts he was a polite and well-spoken young man at the time.”