In two decades, John Randle went from being not good enough to be drafted to being more than good enough to get into the Hall of Fame.
He wasn’t drafted when the process had only seven rounds. In 1990, a full twelve rounds of players found teams, and none of them were named John Randle.
But he had what was best described moments ago in NFL Network’s tribute to Randle (which mirrored Kramer’s assessment of Billy Mumphrey): Unbridled enthusiasm.
Randle became a key part of the Vikings rotation in his rookie year, after defensive tackle Keith Millard tore an ACL. Randle became a full-time starter when Dennis Green arrived as head coach in 1992, and Randle ended up in the Pro Bowl the next year.
Heartbroken during the failed 1998 NFC title game, Randle was forced to watch long stretches of the overtime loss to the Falcons due to a knee injury. It’s the closest he ever came to a Super Bowl.
Best known for slathering vast expanses of eye black onto his cheeks, Randle’s more relevant intimidation technique came from research. He learned personal details about his opponents, and then he barked out player-specific trash talk during a game, often surprising an opponent and, in theory, creating an advantage for Randle.
“The guy did his homework on you,” former Chicago Bears guard Tom Thayer recently told Mark Craig of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “As an offensive lineman, you got used to defensive linemen
talking all the time. But with John, he’d read the press guide and find
some detail about you that he’d use during the game. I always found it
to be pretty funny, but not everybody did.”
Our favorite required little elbow grease on Randle’s part. It went a little something like this: “Hey, J.J. Stokes! J.J. Stokes! Are you a cousin to J.J. Walker?”
When Randle enters the Hall of Fame on Saturday night with a former teammate to J.J. Stokes (Jerry Rice), our biggest question is whether he’ll show up sporting a face full of eye black. As a recent series of Vikings lottery ticket commercial demonstrates, Randle can still pull it off.