MINNEAPOLIS (BVM) – Throughout his NFL career, John Randle was a menace to opposing offenses. The defensive lineman’s size and elite skill level allowed him to wreak havoc in opposing backfields, and it led to plenty of individual and team success with the Minnesota Vikings.
Signed as an undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M-Kingsville, Randle went on to have one of the best careers for an undrafted player the NFL has seen, and is in a rare class of undrafted free agents to make the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
John Randle’s early life, college career
Randle was born and raised in the small town of Mumford, Texas. He grew up in a poor family as the youngest of three boys who were all raised by his mom.
He would go on to attend Hearne High School where he became a solid football player. However, he was not highly sought after coming out of high school, and began his collegiate football career at Trinity Valley Community College in Athens, Texas.
Eventually, the defensive lineman earned his shot at the Division II level with Texas A&I – now known as Texas A&M-Kingsford – a school which also produced fellow Pro Football Hall of Famers Darrell Green and Gene Upshaw. There, Randle shined even further, producing 34 sacks across his final two collegiate seasons. Randle was also named a first-team All-American to end his college career.
John Randle’s NFL career
Despite the strong finish at Texas A&I, Randle was overlooked when it came to the NFL, going undrafted in 1990. Randle did earn tryouts with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Atlanta Falcons, but claiming he was too small, both teams passed on the DII product.
That led to an eventual tryout with the Minnesota Vikings. With the Vikings also believing he was underweight, Randle hid a chain in his pants while getting weighed by the team to meet the 250-pound threshold they desired.
— NFL Films (@NFLFilms) December 14, 2017
From there, a legend was born – though, not instantly. Predictably, Randle played sparingly as a rookie, earning his first career sack and making 21 tackles in 1990. However, in his second season in 1991, Randle had already cracked the Vikings’ starting lineup, and proved he could compete at the pro level with nine sacks and 58 tackles.
Randle would produce double-digit sack totals for the Vikings across the next eight seasons, starting with 11.5 in 1992. By 1993, Randle earned his first Pro Bowl nod and earned first-team All-Pro honors. He would achieve the same feats in each of the following five seasons.
Perhaps Randle’s best season of the stretch came in 1997 as he racked up a league and career-high 15.5 sacks as well as a career-best 47 solo tackles. At the same time he was achieving so much individual success, Randle made the Vikings a perennial playoff team. Following wild-card round losses in four of five seasons from 1992-1996, the Vikings broke through to the divisional round in 1997.
In 1998, Minnesota had its best season yet, going 15-1 behind a strong defense led by Randle – who had 10.5 sacks and 41 tackles that season – and an upstart offense behind quarterback Randall Cunningham, veteran Cris Carter and rookie wide receiver Randy Moss. Unfortunately, the Vikings would suffer a heartbreaking overtime loss at home to the Atlanta Falcons in the NFC Championship game.
They would lose in the conference title game again in 2000 which would end up being Randle’s final season in Minnesota. In 2001, Randle joined the Seattle Seahawks where he had another strong season at age 34, making 11 sacks and 38 tackles while earning his eighth Pro Bowl selection.
Randle compiled 12.5 sacks in two more seasons with the Seahawks, with his career coming to an end in another overtime playoff loss against the Green Bay Packers. The defensive lineman retired in 2004 with 556 career tackles and 137.5 career sacks. The six-time first-team All-Pro and seven-time Pro Bowl selection was also remarkably durable as he appeared in all 176 games of his Vikings career from 1990-2000, making 133 consecutive starts within that span.
John Randle is one of the 7 DTs selected to the #NFL100 All-Time Team!
⭐ 7x Pro Bowler
⭐️ 137.5 Career Sacks
⭐️ 1997 NFL Sacks Leader (15.5) pic.twitter.com/zNtmbvUQ2b
— NFL (@NFL) November 30, 2019
John Randle’s legacy, achievements
Randle was known for more than just his high-level play while in the NFL. One thing would be his elaborative face painting, which was also taken on by fellow Vikings defensive end Chris Hovan.
Another was Randle’s trash talking, which often referred to his being labeled undersized before making it big in the NFL. One of the players he trash-talked most was Packers quarterback Brett Favre who he formed an often nasty, but sometimes-friendly rivalry with. Randle sacked Favre more than any other quarterback he faced in his career with 12.5 in total. In a matchup in 1996, Randle tallied 3.5 sacks against Favre and the Packers, also forcing two fumbles.
Despite playing on rival teams, both players often gave each other plenty of credit for their Hall of Fame careers. The two eventually starred in a commercial together during their playing careers, and have reconnected in retirement to discuss their relationship as well.
Meanwhile, Randle was also one of the first NFL video game cover athletes, as he got to grace the cover of 989 Sports’ “NFL Xtreme 2” in 1999.
1999 TV commercial for NFL Xtreme 2 on the PlayStation, ft. Judge Mills Lane and the Minnesota Vikings' John Randle. pic.twitter.com/vDGWOxHnke
— NBA Jam (the book) (@nbajambook) July 28, 2019
Following his career, Randle received plenty of recognition. In 2008, he was named to the College Football Hall of Fame. The same year, Randle was also inducted into the Vikings Ring of Honor.
By 2010, in just his second year of eligibility, Randle was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, joining a small fraternity of undrafted players to reach football’s pinnacle.
“I also am so humbled by this incredible honor which I never thought was possible,” Randle said during his enshrinement speech. “Thank you to the Pro Football Hall of Fame, everyone who played a part in electing me for making this small-town kid’s dream come true.”
Randle is also a member of the Texas Sports Hall of Fame and has had his number retired at Hearne High School. Most recently in 2019, the Vikings legend was also inducted into the Minnesota Sports Hall of Fame. The same year, he was named to the NFL’s 100th anniversary team.
John Randle’s personal life, post-playing career
Randle has remained in Minnesota since retirement with his wife, Candace, and his kids. The Vikings legend has two older brothers, Dennis and Ervin – the latter of which also played in the NFL with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
While the standout defensive lineman has taken up common activities in retirement like golf and traveling, he has also made a unique endeavor alongside another former Vikings defender. Earlier this year, John partnered with Chad Greenway’s Gray Ducks Spirits brand to create a label with his screaming face on the brand’s vodka bottles.
Not everyday you get to create a bottle for someone like @johnnyrandle93. Thank you for your partnership with @grayduckspirits John. We can't wait to write that big check to @StDavidsCenter. pic.twitter.com/NpM0DQyb0H
— Chad Greenway (@chadgreenway52) August 23, 2022
— Gray Duck Spirits (@grayduckspirits) August 23, 2022
It is certainly not the only instance of Randle staying close to his former team. In 2019, he partnered with the Vikings and Sleep Number to make a commercial.
— Sleep Number (@sleepnumber) January 25, 2019
Despite going undrafted himself, John has also had the opportunity to announce some recent Vikings draft picks through the years, including star running back Dalvin Cook in 2017.
Meanwhile, he is also involved with Vikings media efforts, as evidenced by helping the franchise out with a unique schedule-release video earlier this year.
.@johnnyrandle93 is the baddest dude alive.
And if he doesn't get you fired up for the 2022 season, we don't know what will.
— Minnesota Vikings (@Vikings) May 13, 2022
John also celebrates “Purple Friday” frequently on social media, often prior to Vikings games on the weekend.
— john randle (@johnnyrandle93) September 9, 2022
— john randle (@johnnyrandle93) September 2, 2022
With a new regime taking over for the Vikings in 2022, John has also made time with local media to talk about his optimism for Minnesota going forward.
However, John’s greatest contribution to football since retirement has been his involvement with the NFL Legends Community, an organization that launched in 2013 which assists former players as they make the transition from the field to retirement. Initially starting out as a coordinator for the central north region, John has since become one of five directors for the organization, a role he has held since 2019.
As impressive as the Hall of Famer was on the field during his career, he continues to shine off of it. There is little doubt John will be cheering on the Vikings throughout the 2022 season and beyond as he continues to be a beloved member of the Minnesota community.