Landing a job in the NFL requires next-level expertise. For Mike McDaniel, his NFL journey started when he lost his Charlotte Hornets hat while watching the Denver Broncos in training camp.

How Mike McDaniel lost his cap

Raised by a single mother, McDaniel's biggest dream was to make it to the NFL. As a kid growing up in Colorado, he often watched the Broncos during training camp. One day, he had a goal to get as much of his memorabilia signed by different players. To look a bit inconspicuous, he planned to wear a Hornets hat so that he could ask for multiple autographs. One second he'd be wearing the hat, and the next he would take it off in hopes of not being recognized.

After successfully getting his memorabilia signed by Broncos' running back Robert Delpino earlier in the day, McDaniel saw him sign autographs after practice and placed his hat on a nearby bench to try and get another item signed. However, upon his return, he discovered that his hat was missing. In his quest to find his hat, the first person he found to ask for help was Gary McCune, the Broncos' video operations assistant.

After spending the next few minutes looking for the hat, it was never found. McDaniel was devastated, and McCune saw it in his face. Later that day, McCune went to the Greeley Mall to get him a new hat. The following day, when McCune saw McDaniel, he not only gave him a new hat, but also invited him and his family for a behind-the-scenes tour of the Broncos facility.

Mike McDaniel became obsessed with the NFL

Miami Dolphins head coach Mike McDaniel speaks to reporters during mandatory minicamp at Baptist Health Training Complex.
Mandatory Credit: Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

During the tour, McDaniel brought his mother, who eventually fell in love with McCune and got married to him. When McCune was busy watching and reviewing game films late at night, McDaniel often joined him. He'd get his first shot at the NFL working as a ball boy for the Broncos. His enthusiasm and work ethic did not go unnoticed, and once he graduated from Yale, he was hired as a coaching intern for the Broncos.

Over the next 11 years, McDaniel dedicated himself to learning from the likes of Gary Kubiak and Kyle Shanahan, which included stints with the Washington Commanders, Atlanta Falcons, and San Francisco 49ers. His journey through various assistant coaching roles eventually paid off when he was given a chance to be the 13th head coach of the Miami Dolphins.

Stories like these are a reminder that even small moments can lead to extraordinary opportunities.