Maryland's Dane Randolph Posts Big Numbers but Faces Long Odds in NFL Draft

By Les Carpenter
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, April 16, 2009

In a workout room just off the open end of Maryland's Byrd Stadium, Dane Randolph wipes the sweat from his face and begins an assault on an invisible opponent he can not vanquish: the perception he is not good enough to be an NFL player.

An accounting of his life at this moment would seem to render such a notion absurd. He stands 6 feet 5, weighs 300 pounds and often looms over the men across from his position at right tackle. Last month, before an armada of NFL scouts and coaches inside nearby Cole Field House, he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.9 seconds, which is almost unheard of for a person of his immense size. That same day he lifted 225 pounds 29 times, fully extending his arms, locking his elbows with each thrust.

He has a gruff strength coach in Arizona who adores him. He has a speed coach who regularly trains Alex Rodriguez and an agent who dotes upon him.

The NFL, it would seem, should covet him.

Only the league's teams appear to have doubts about Randolph's ability to play. So much so that when the draft is held next weekend in New York, his name in all probability will not be called before its final hour on Sunday afternoon. And even then the likeliest scenario is he won't be one of the 256 picked at all, leaving him like hundreds of other prospects, desperate to claw their way on to rosters as undrafted free agents.

"My minimal info says that he has a non-draftable grade," NFL Network draft analyst Mike Mayock wrote in an e-mail. "He is regarded as a [right tackle] only, which is bad unless you are the starter. No versatility."

His problem lies not in the things he can touch, like weights or a track or even a playbook -- which he can replicate in detail upon demand -- but in something far less organic, something in the past he can do nothing to change. His problem is on videotape. Namely the tapes of the 24 Maryland games he started the last three years that reveal a player who is sometimes erratic, brilliant one game and mediocre the next.

"At times he has played very, very well, but what the scouts are looking for is consistency," said Tom Brattan, Maryland's offensive line coach.

But with no games to play there is little he can do to rebut the video evidence. His only recourse is to lift more weights, run more sprints and hope when and if a team calls later this month he will be so fast and so strong the coaches will be tempted enough by his promise that they'll want to keep him around.

"It is what it is," Randolph said.

Perception Problem

His words are not angry. Randolph is not one to discourage easily. He laughs merrily as he rests in an easy chair in his mother's townhouse in Owings Mills. In many ways he is not like other athletes. He was an only child raised by a single mother who worked as a cryptologist in the Navy. Together they moved all over the world, from Pensacola, Fla., to Portugal to British Columbia to Maryland, to West Virginia to Jacksonville and eventually back to Columbia. He played sports only because his mother wanted him to be active and out of the house.

He did not burn to be a football player. In fact, he never played the game until he was almost in high school. He had too many other interests. He liked to read science fiction and played the clarinet in school bands. In Canada he learned curling. And when colleges began calling as a result of his football performance at Wilde Lake High School, he was excited by the idea of getting a degree for free. It never occurred to him he might play in the NFL. Not even when he first became a starter on the offensive line at Maryland three years ago.


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