Lab Football Coach Randall
All Marcus Randall can do is pause and chuckle when the subject of the Bluegrass Miracle comes up.
"I saw somebody put it up on Facebook for Throwback Thursday and 900,000 people had viewed it," he said.
LSU wide receiver Devery Henderson gets most of the credit -- and the ESPY Play of the Year in 2002 – for the 75-yard Hail Mary completion from Randall to beat Kentucky, 33-30, on the game's final play.
"That's always great to have, that kind of memory at your alma mater," he said. "I'm from here. It feels good.
It may not be long that Randall is remembered for a lot more than that one play. Last December, in his first season as a head coach, he guided Southern Lab to the Division IV select state championship with a 36-2 victory against St. Mary's in the Mercedes-Benz Superdome.
Last week, Randall returned to LSU to do what's he done since his playing days ended – share his knowledge of football. He was one of several guest speakers at the LSU high school clinic, lecturing on offensive sets and blocking schemes.
Randall was a starting quarterback for LSU in 2002 and 2004, sharing in the 2003 BCS Championship as the backup to Matt Mauck. A brief NFL career ended with an injury but launched Randall on another mission.
"After I stopped playing I knew I wanted to stay around the game," he said Friday. "After all the things I learned in college I really started forming the idea I wanted to come back and coach. I wanted to share the knowledge I had because I thought back if I had known what I know now in high school how much better would I have been.
"I put the time in and was around a lot of the right coaches. That gave me the background. I knew the game of football, but I learned to coach and teach the game of football as well."
Randall set the bar high for himself. His coaching colleagues needled him about winning it all in his first year, although his team had some built in motivation having lost the championship game to Ouachita Christian the season before.
"I knew they'd be hungry to go again," Randall said. "All we had to do is get the right buy-in, get everybody on the same page and keep the bad taste in their mouths from the year before, go out and work every day.
"The guys put the work in, they took the coaching. They didn't buy in right at first but as the season went on they saw things work and believed in the things we were saying. By playoff time I saw a different team that jelled like we hadn't all season."
Randall had a modest career as a Tigers, seeing most of his playing time in years sandwiched around the national championship. He took over the starting quarterback job when Mauck was injured against Florida in 2002 and shared starts with Jamarcus Russell in 2004.
He started 14 of 34 games played and was twice SEC Offensive Player of the Week. He completed 216 of 385 passes for 2,852 yards with 12 interceptions and 18 touchdowns -- and one big miracle.
"That year me and Devery were roommates with Corey Webster and Randall "Blue" Gay," Randall recalled. "He went off to the Espy's and we were like, 'Man you better bring us some stuff. I had to throw that ball a long way for you to catch it.'
"It doesn't seem like it's been as long as it's been. Those times were priceless too. I've had a bunch of experiences that led me to where I am now and they continue to happen. I thank God for all the blessings and the people he put around me to make me better."
After winning MVP honors in the Gridiron Classic All-Star game, Randall signed as a free agent with the Tennessee Titans and was moved to safety. The next year he was with Green Bay and moved to linebacker before an ankle injury vaulted him into coaching.
He spent one year at Tara in Baton Rouge before becoming Dean of Students and quarterback coach at Woodlawn. Then, he joined up with his brother and former Southern University quarterback Eric Randall at Scotlandville High School for three "tremendously" important years.
"The three years I spent there were some of the best," Randall said. "My brother and I really didn't have a chance to bond growing up with an eight-year difference. But he always gave me pointers growing up and was always there.
"The three years letting me run the offense, call the plays. . . we went to quarterfinals back-to-back, something the school hadn't done in forever. That experience was priceless, and doing it with my brother made it even better."
A full-fledged member of the coaching fraternity, Randall now rubs shoulders with the people who coached him. He recently attended junior day at Alabama where his former LSU coach Nick Saban was checking out a couple of Randall's players. Randall said he talks to Saban occasionally but is even closer to his former position coach Jimbo Fisher, the head coach at Florida State. He can proudly say all three have won championships.
Randall said even more than winning he was proud that 11 of his Southern Lab players went on to receiver college scholarships. He knows he's got his work cut out for him as he moves forward.
"I don't know if there was more pressure last year or this year," he said. "I want to continue to make the players better. We had 11 kids receive scholarships. That's one of the things that excites me more than winning games, kids going to college, winning games and winning lives. It's something that will benefit them their whole life."
Jim Kleinpeter can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 504.826.3405.