The South High School Rebel band stormed the school's auditorium Wednesday as teachers were welcomed back to campus. Students rushed the stage holding a giant banner that read, "Congrats Mr. Mac."
Mr. Mac stared blankly in his seat for a moment before realizing the hoopla was for him.
Brent McClanahan, a South High educator since 1994, was surprised with the 2012 National Football League's teacher of the year award. It recognizes former NFL players who are working professionally as teachers, and who make a profound impact on educational and life-skills development.
McClanahan played for the Minnesota Vikings from 1973 to 1980.
"God bless everyone," McClanahan told his colleagues, who gave him a standing ovation. "This is an honor, and a thrill."
The award comes with $10,000, $5,000 of which goes to his campus. He was nominated for the award by South High Principal Connie Grumling, and for several years before by former principal Mike Zulfa.
"He's an absolute role model for our kids," said Zulfa, now an assistant superintendent of instruction for the Kern High School District. "He was just an outstanding athlete. And he came back and wanted to help these kids. He connects with them in a way not a lot of faculty members can. He's walked in their shoes literally. He's just a good man."
McClanahan teaches business and online education courses at South High. He played running back for the school before graduating in 1969, and then attended Arizona State before being drafted by the Vikings.
Grumling in her nomination statement wrote, "Mr. McClanahan impresses the value of hard work and dedication to his students. He helps them set realistic goals and set a path that will help them achieve those goals."
For the award he beat out 10 finalists, and was chosen by a voting panel that included U.S. congressmen, former NFL players, teachers and NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell.
"We are proud of former NFL players who are able to use the values they learned on the football field -- integrity, preparation and persistence -- and carry them over into the classroom," Goodell said in a statement. "We honor these former NFL players for their dedication to the profession of teaching."
NFL hall-of-famer and former Minnesota Viking Randall McDaniel, also a teacher, presented McClanahan with a trophy. McClanahan's family also joined in on the surprise.
He called the award humbling, and said he'd prefer to stay out of the spotlight, and remain in the background instead.
Still, he said he's thankful to have been able to play football, play in three Super Bowls, and have a second career in teaching. Despite having had 28 surgeries and six concussions through his football career and after, he's glad he was healthy enough to return home to teach at his alma mater, he said.
After football, he fell back on education, he said, earning two bachelor's degrees and a master's degree. McClanahan has also been honored locally by the Jim Burke Education Foundation.