By Mike Mooneyham
April 20, 2002
Wahoo McDaniel, who parlayed a successful professional football career into a more lucrative one in the world of pro wrestling that lasted three decades, passed away at the age of 63 Thursday night in Houston.
McDaniel, simply known as “Wahoo” to a generation of fans, died 10 days after suffering a stroke.
The longtime Charlotte native had been in poor health the past several years and had been on a kidney transplant list.
Born Edward McDaniel in Louisiana, Wahoo first attracted national attention as an All-American football player at the University of Oklahoma and later as a hard-nosed performer in the old American Football League. The talented athlete traded his football cleats for a ring career when he discovered the squared circle could offer much sweeter monetary awards.
[ad#MikeMooneyham-336×280]“I was just making so much money wrestling, I decided to quit football,” McDaniel told The Post and Courier in a 1982 interview. “I made $42,000 my last year in pro football. That was a big contract back then. I made 11 grand the first year I played and worked my way up to 42 grand. But it wasn’t until later that they started paying the real big contracts … At 29 years old, I was the oldest guy on the team (for the Miami Dolphins). After a while, football takes a toll on you and it ceases to be fun. You lose a lot of that gung-ho’ college spirit.”
Wahoo’s athletic career rocketed to a blazing start at Midland High School in Texas where he earned All-American honors in football as a senior and all-state laurels two more seasons. In baseball, the all-state prep catcher led Texas in home runs with 14 and was offered pro contracts. In high school track, he was state champion in the shot put and second in the state in the discus.
As a member of the legendary Bud Wilkinson’s perennial powerhouse at the University of Oklahoma, he added collegiate All-American honors to his collection. McDaniel, who played both ways and punted, had the longest punt in the nation in 1958 (91 yards) and the second-longest pass reception (87 yards). He was never worse than sixth in the nation in punting average during three varsity seasons at Oklahoma.
Among McDaniel’s most memorable wrestling feuds were with Ric Flair, the late Johnny Valentine, and a tag-team program pitting him and Paul Jones against Gene and Ole Anderson.
“Those were some of the toughest matches ever,” Ole Anderson recalled Friday night. “When he wrestled Valentine, you could hear the chops and the fists outside the building. In our matches with Wahoo and Jones, we went from 60 minutes, to 90 minutes, and then to two hours. They finally ended up putting us as the only deal on the card, along with one standby match. We wrestled back and forth for months. In some cases they were more than two hours, because I was just hoping and begging that the bell would ring.”