You can probably say the game of football came naturally to someone like Eric Randall. The Louisiana native from Baton Rouge, who dominated as quarterback for Southern University from 1992 – 1995, led his team to two Southwestern Athletic Conference championships and a Black College National Championship title in 1995.
But when Randall began playing sports at a young age, his dreams of athletic stardom did not include a helmet or marked fields of green.
”If I had a choice, I would’ve chosen basketball,” he said. “I had a love for basketball, but I wanted to be realistic with myself. I had more potential to go to college on scholarship as a football player. I was only 6-foot-3, so I decided football was the best thing, and it’s been great.”
Growing up, Randall found inspiration in watching NFL greats like former Washington Redskins player Doug Williams and hall of fame quarterback Joe Montana, but not just because of their exceptional playing abilities.
“As a quarterback, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention Doug Williams. He’s the only African American who’s won the Super Bowl, and I’ve been able to talk to him as a life long friend.”
In eighth grade, Randall met Williams who mentored him during his time at Glen Oaks High School in Baton Rouge, and the two have been connected ever since.
Montana’s influence stems from Randall’s beliefs in education.
“He was not only a football player, but he was an academic guy, and that’s what I wanted to be, a student-athlete and not just an athlete.”
Now the newly appointed head football coach at Scotlandville High School in Baton Rouge, Randall is helping push that same message to student-athletes on his team.
Having coached previously for Southern Lab High School in Baton Rouge, Randall said he and his staff are “just trying to change some of these kids lives, and I think we’re doing that each and every single day.”
Along his side on Scotlandville’s coaching staff is Eric’s younger brother, Marcus, who proves the football gene runs in the Randall family.
Despite Marcus’ professional success, Eric said he never felt jealousy toward his brother. Although Eric dreamed of going to the NFL, he knew that Marcus might surpass him.
Before Eric’s father, Eric Sr., died when Eric was 16, he prepped Eric for the possible truth.
“My father made the comment when I was around 12 and Marcus was 4.” “He said, ‘Your brother’s going to be better than you’.” Eric, offended and confused by the remark, later asked his father why he was convinced his sibling would outperform him. “That’s the way it’s supposed to be,” he said his father explained. “The younger brother is supposed to outdo the older brother because you’re supposed to show him the tricks of the trade and he’s supposed to surpass you. If he does not, then you are a failure.”
Though his father’s comments were difficult to receive, Eric was not fueled by sibling rivalry. He said he loves his brother and always made sure he did the right things. And having a brother in the NFL isn’t exactly a burden.
“He made a lot of money in three quick years, and we visited a lot of new places riding on his coattails,” said Eric playfully.
Eric also acknowledges how the roles have reversed.
“People used to say, ‘That’s Eric Randall’s little brother,’ and now they say ‘That’s Marcus Randall’s big brother,’ and I love it because he’s a successful man.”
Marcus attributes much of his success to his older brother.
“When my dad passed, he (Eric) took that role on and not only pushed me athletically but academically. I looked up to him, and he was a role model to me. I watched him play, and he always taught me the game.”
Marcus added that he and Eric push each other to be the best they can be.
Eric may not have gone pro, but as a tribute to his prominent college success and continuing role in football, Southern University inducted Eric into their hall of fame in 2010, but it wasn’t the first time the opportunity had presented itself.
In 2002, Southern attempted to honor Eric with the induction, but he declined. “I turned it down initially because I knew my wife was pregnant with our son, and I wanted him to be able to see that,” he said. “Someone said I may not get that chance again, but thank God I did, and my son was there.”
Eric hopes his son, Eric III, will follow in his footsteps. “I care if he goes the athletic route because I have a passion for sports, but if he chooses not to play sports he will have to do something because everyone has been blessed with a talent. And I’ll put as much behind my kids as I need to put behind them to make sure they develop that talent.
If Eric hadn’t pursued sports himself, he said he probably would have fulfilled his dream of being an engineer, but if he weren’t coaching he’d be back in administration.
Before accepting the coaching position at Scotlandville, Eric served as assistant principal at Baton Rouge High School. Eric said what he wanted in life has come to fruition including being a principal. Eric’s mom, Linda Clark Randall, also worked in education and always pushed the concept of self-actualization, a psychological theory that promotes the realization of one’s full potential.
“I always knew I wanted to become a coach, I always knew I wanted to play football, and I always knew that self-actualization was the best form of becoming who you wanted to be.”
Eric believes that until you challenge yourself, or someone else challenges you, “you never know how far you can go.”