Aug. 31, 2012
By Thomas Lenneberg, ASU Media Relations
His intensity during practice, matched only by the hard work he asks of his defensive linemen, reveals a drive for perfection that permeates throughout the group. While Paul Randolph is a coach by title, he is a teacher by trade, and that determination to educate is clear on every snap and in every word.
He has an unbelievable love for the game of football, but it is his respect for the power it can have over young men that fills the room and inspires all who listen. When Randolph, his voice hoarse from the morning's practice, talks about the opportunity he has to make a positive impact on his players, his eyes light up, his hands become animated and his words resonate with an unmatched passion.
"I am here to influence young people," Randolph says. "Hopefully in the right direction and hopefully in not only just football, but also in life."
Randolph looks at what he does for a living as a calling and sees himself as a role model for the 18-22 year olds he coaches. He says that because achievements on the field are fleeting, it is important for his players to see that he has become a successful husband, father, friend, counselor and coach off the field.
"I try hard everyday to live the example that I want my players to live," Randolph says. "And to aspire to be the man that we're asking them to become."
When a young man is able to take the skills that Randolph instills in them on the football field - a strong work ethic, discipline and teamwork - and translate them to other walks of life, then Randolph is confident he is doing his part as a role model. Whether it is seeing one of his guys holding down a professional job or simply being happy and thriving at life, the moments beyond the gridiron are why Randolph does what he does.
"When a former player calls to tell you that he's getting married or that his first-born is on the way,'" Randolph says. "Those are the types of things that let you know that you are doing it right as a coach."
Keeping in touch with his players is a priority for Randolph, who says that when he recruits a young man, he is serious when he tells them they are forging a lifelong relationship. Randolph was raised in a single-parent household and says the only way he was going to college was through an athletic scholarship or military service. Because he lived the situation that a lot of the student-athletes he coaches grew up in, Randolph understands how important male figures of authority can be over an extended period of time.
"I'm the example for them," Randolph says. "I've lived their life. I've come through that. In sharing my story with them, it gives them that motivation that is ok and that it has been done."
Randolph appreciated the impact his role models had on him and was drawn toward coaching as a way to honor the men who had helped him so much during his childhood and give back to the community. When he retired from his hall-of-fame career in the Canadian Football League, Randolph says his greatest dilemma was choosing between coaching college or high school because he wasn't sure where he could have the greatest impact.
"I sure am glad the Lord led me to college because I love it with a passion," Randolph says. "For me, I still have that passion and that love, because in my mind, I'm still that same old third-grader still trying to play football. Just running around and being in it."
A big part of Randolph's teachings include instilling character, and if you want to test character, than add pressure, because as one of his favorite sayings goes, "pressure busts the pipes." Randolph, who coaches the defensive line, says while he looks for players who are smart, disciplined and tough, he also wants to know how they hold up under pressure, what their body language is like when they get beat and how much desire they have on each play.
"The way a player responds when his character is tested," Randolph says,
"is going to have a great influence on his success"
Rituals, customs and positive habits are also an extremely important indicator for the success of a program, Randolph says. Whether it's blanketing the third floor of the Carson Student-Athlete Center in a historical football mural or bringing the team back to Camp Tontozona, Randolph has been at the forefront of re-establishing tradition at Arizona State. And while ASU already has some of its own - Tillman Tunnel, Victory Bell, Sun Devil Walk - he wants to be a part of the group that adds a new set of traditions that will still be carried on 50 years from now.
"Normally tradition is forged through winning," Randolph says. "So naturally, we want a lot of tradition because we want a lot of winning going on."
Not only does Randolph want every ASU student to be in the stands, but he also wants them invested in the program. From being loud when it's third-and-long for the opponent to singing the fight song when the game is over, Randolph believes fan involvement, especially at one of the largest universities in the country, is essential to the team's success.
"We want to create an atmosphere where Sun Devil Stadium is a place to be feared," Randolph says. "We talk about fearing the fork - well we want them to fear coming to Tempe and lining up to play the Sun Devils."