When he played he was among the most feared and most hilarious defensive linemen in the NFL. John Randle came out of Texas A&M-Kingsville undrafted, never forgot those who didn’t believe in him – after all, who believes in a 6-foot-1, 240-pound defensive tackle anyway – and has some advice for other so-called undersized defensive tackles.
Like Bears 2014 third-round pick Will Sutton, even shorter than Randle.
Randle studied opponents on film and in media guides, looking into the personal histories of offensive linemen in particular, sometimes in the media guides on the Minnesota Vikings bench during games. And he started a book – literally – on those opponents, something he believes Sutton should already be doing.
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“[Sutton] should start a book,” Randle told CSNChicago.com recently at the Pro Football Hall of Fame’s “Chicago Salute to Greatness” at the Glen Club in Glenview. “You’re ‘profiling’ guys, ‘stalking’ them. I gotta know [an opponent’s] strengths and his weaknesses.
“I kept a book, an actual book, of what I did with a guy, what worked, what didn’t. I knew people thought of me as a fast guy, so first play of the game, I’d line up wide and then bull rush. Next play, maybe stutter-step but then bull-rush again. Then maybe ‘hump[-move]’ him like Reggie White.”
Then Randle laughed. “And then the next time, maybe I start raving about his kids or him being such a good dad. Keep ‘em off balance.”
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Randle, a regular Vikings watcher, was adamant that the Bears got something in Jared Allen (“Jared can still play. He can”). He was also forceful in how Sutton would have to approach the NFL in order to survive.
It was all about the mentality, not solely physical ability.
“The key is that you have to go into a game, every game, with the mindset when you go on that field that it’s not just your job,” said Randle, who finished his career in 2003 tied with Richard Dent with 137.5 sacks, seventh all-time. “You’re out there with 11 guys and out of those 11, you want to be the ‘D’ battery. You don’t want to be AAA, AA. You want to be the ‘D’ battery.
“I wanted them to look at our front four and say, ‘See that little guy right there? You don’t want to mess with him. He’s not the biggest but every play you are going to get all of me. If you take a break, I’m going to get you.”
Dent was a practitioner of picking spots to use his speed, even to the point of appearing to take plays off as part of setting up a left tackle.
Randle’s approach was the opposite.
“For me, since I was interior, I wanted to be a tornado,” Randle said. “I was an undrafted guy and wanted to prove every game that I was Clint Eastwood and have it be, ‘That’s Josey Wales. You don’t want to mess with him.’ ‘The Outlaw Josey Wales’ – one of the best movies ever.
“That was me.”