Joseph Randle has been to battle as a running back for the Dallas Cowboys, and the Oklahoma State Cowboys. He has played in front of huge crowds on national television, on some of the biggest stages the game has to offer.
But on the night of November 2, 2007, he was a high school sophomore at Wichita Southeast on the road in a playoff game against Emporia making a memory he will never forget.
“Me and my teammates went down there and kicked some butt,” said Randle. “The defense was tearing everybody up. I had probably 200 yards even, with three or four touchdowns, and my boy had 197 and two touchdowns and we was just both killing them rushing, rushing the ball. And I caught the game ending pick at the end, so those are things you never forget throughout life. I have some good memories of playing in the Black and Gold.”
It is memories like that one he wants to prepare the next generation for, and give kids the tools they will need as they move forward in their football playing lives with a football camp he and some of his Dallas teammates will be hosting at Wichita South from July 14-16.
Watching Randle carry the ball for the Golden Buffaloes was something those who were lucky enough to see won’t forget. There was almost an expectation he was going to score every time he touched the ball, no matter where on the field. It was clear he was the most dominant athlete in pads on any given night.
But going back to those high school days, although he could have been satisfied with where he was at, he was constantly driven to become better. His head coach Gary Guzman did his part to keep the young Randle humble as well. It was something that served him well as he transitioned up the ladder from high school, to major college football, and into the NFL.
“I have always been the type to try to prove myself every day,” said Randle. “It never got to my head that I was the best athlete in high school. So that was no transition for me. I wasn’t out there like, ‘Ain’t nobody out here better than me.’ I was still working just as hard because our coach would actually get on our butt. Star player or not, if you didn’t lift weights he was going to give you a zero for the class. And you didn’t want no Fs. So we worked out just as hard as everybody else, if not even harder. He pushed me to be better than just OK.”
It’s the same attitude he uses now that football has become a job on the highest level of the game.
When you consider Randle’s talent running the ball, good enough to earn a job with the Dallas Cowboys, it is easy to forget his talent as a defensive back when he was at Southeast. But there was something more alluring on a primal level that turned his head toward the offensive side of the ball. A dominating ground game is cruel. It is blunt force trauma. It bleeds the life out of a defense. There is no recovery from an inability to stop the run.
“You are ripping it out of their chest,” said Randle. “There is nothing better than just pounding the ball. That’s why I’m a running back. I could have went to college and played corner and probably been drafted in the first round. But I went and did it my way. That’s what it is all about, doing it your way, and I’m happy with the outcome that I got.”
As anyone looks back at high school, there is always that wisdom accrued one wishes they could impart on their younger selves. Randle believes for the most part he did things the right way. It is hard to argue with the results. But he wishes he would have spent his younger days preparing himself for the drills awaiting him at the combine. The NFL combine is a test of players on a rudimentary level. It is like testing a musician’s ability to play scales before putting them in the orchestra.
But it is important when you are being heavily scrutinized by people with large checkbooks. The money on the line makes it stressful as well, which is why Randle wishes he had spent more time etching the drills into his brain.
At his football camp, he wants to pass this knowledge onto the next group of Wichita kids, telling them the importance of taking drills seriously and doing them right.
“All the same drills you do at the high school combines, you do at the combine in front of owners and professional teams,” said Randle. “And that’s what we are going to try to give to these kids out here and start preparing their minds for camp-type drills, 7-on-7-type drills, all the different things that they would be doing at the next level.”