It didn't take long for John Randle to prove his worth in the National Football League. You know the story—as an undrafted free agent out of Texas A&I, Randle was widely considered too small to play defensive tackle in the NFL. And certainly by today's size standards, 6 feet and 280 pounds is far from the norm at the position.
But after just one season with the Minnesota Vikings, Randle had earned a starting spot and was well on his way to becoming one of the best defensive tackles of all-time.
How did he do it? As cliché as it might sound, John Randle played the game with his heart. And with a non-stop motor that allowed him to reach beyond any size limitations to amass 137.5 career sacks (still the most ever by a defensive tackle) in 14 seasons.
Randle's strong work ethic enabled him to get the most from his efforts:
"Some see practice as a nuisance, but I saw it as a way of getting better. I went so hard in practice that when the game came, it was so much easier."
That hard work paid off. Randle was elected to seven Pro Bowls, and was named to the NFL's All-Decade team for the 1990s.
Aside from his obvious statistical success, Randle was one of the game's most recognizable characters, admittedly becoming like a different person when he smeared his trademark eye black (aka war paint) all over his face, and suited up on Sundays.
He was also well known for "trash talking", and he discovered a psychological advantage in reading opposing team's media guides so he knew enough about a player to get mental leverage during a game.
Not only was he fun to watch from a talent standpoint, he was as entertaining a player as there was at the time—barking catch phrases ("Big dog's gotta eat"), and annoying opponents and teammates alike with incessant chatter. His nickname was "Motor Mouth."
As John Randle enters the Pro Football Hall of Fame with the Class of 2010 this weekend (only the 14th undrafted player to enter the Hall), I pause to remember a man who played the game of football the way it was supposed to be played.
And in a building filled with memories of the game's greatest players—many of whom played it more for the passion than for money—John Randle is fitting company.