Coaches hardly, if ever, come out and say that they like one of the players on their team better than others. Sometimes, they don’t have to make that sort of statement.
For Lugoff-Elgin football coach Matt Campbell, just saying the name Randall Brown causes his eyes to light up while bringing a smile to his face.
Brown, the Demons’ 5-foot-10, 198-pound running back, finished his high school career by having rushed for 1,553 yards and 12 touchdowns. In his senior season, Brown had 127 carries for 659 yards with four trips into the end zone while catching 23 passes for 198 yards with a one touchdown grab.
Those numbers caught the eye of the coaches for the inaugural Columbia Metropolitan Bowl, which Brown played in last December. Those, obviously, were not the only sets of eyeballs focusing on Brown.
In a ceremony held inside the L-E Wellness Center, the three-year varsity starter signed a National Letter of Intent to continue his academic and football-playing pursuits at Presbyterian College.
Outside of his family, no person took a greater sense of pride this day than Campbell.
“Randall’s a great kid who has been part of our program for four years and played on the varsity as a freshman,” said Campbell, who came to L-E in Brown’s freshman campaign of 2015. “He works his tail off constantly. A great example of that is one of those warm weeks we had this (past) year, he practiced so hard that he got dehydrated and we couldn’t play him that Friday night.
“That’s the way he attacks everything, whether it’s in the classroom or, on the field. Everything that’s he’s gotten today, he’s earned and deserved.”
Brown will head to a Blue Hose program which is transitioning to the non-scholarship NCAA Football Championship Subdivision (formerly I-AA) member Pioneer Football Conference in 2020. A regular member of L-E’s honor roll, Brown said he is both relieved and ready to become part of Tommy Spangler’s program in Clinton.
“It’s a huge day. It’s a happy day for me. It’s a lot to get off my shoulders,” Brown said while flashing an ear-to-ear grin following the signing. “After having to talk to schools and going through the recruitment process, to have a home and be with one school, it’s a relief.
“They (PC) have been recruiting me a long time; probably since the end of my 10th grade year. I felt really comfortable at the school. That had a lot to do with it.”
Another thing which had a lot to do in helping make this dream become a reality was the work which Brown did in the classroom. That, Campbell said of his former standout tailback, speaks volumes as to Brown being a model and sought-after student-athlete.
“I’m glad that Randall is getting the opportunity to play Division I football,” said the former NFL offensive lineman. “With PC going non-scholarship, it all comes down to academic money. Everything Randall has done in the classroom has gotten him to where he is.”
Brown has been told by the PC coaching staff that they plan on keeping him as a running back. “As far as “I know coach Spangler really liked him back there and he was a priority for them,” Campbell said of Brown remaining a running back. For his part, Brown said if he is needed to play somewhere else on the field, all they need to do is ask him. In fact, he said with a laugh, he was not always a running back.
“Actually,” he said, “I started off playing offensive line. I was kind of a chubby kid. Then, when I was about nine years old, I started slimming down and have played running back ever since then.”
A six-year old who, at that age, could rattle all the names of all the NFL teams, Brown started playing football at a young age. He made his way through the recreation department leagues and it all started coming together for him when he reached the eighth grade.
“I think that started happening around my eighth grade year. That’s when I started coming into my own and figuring out the ins and outs of football and I started getting a lot better,” he said. A year later, as a 140-pound freshman, Brown was called up to the varsity to add depth to a Demon squad which would win one game.
As a sophomore, Brown rushed for 229 yards and two touchdowns while also being used in the secondary, making 11 tackles while breaking up a pass and recovering a fumble. That started drawing attention from colleges and things continued to build in a junior campaign which started with his rushing for 218 yards on 21 carries with two touchdowns against Camden. Brown finished the year with 665 yards on 114 carries with six touchdowns.
“My ninth grade year, I started playing on the varsity, but it was kind of rough for me,” Brown said. “By my 10th grade year, I started excelling and started doing a lot better on varsity. I thought then that I could play at the next level.”
Campbell said that with a 4.5 time in the 40, Brown can get faster in college. While speed is one thing, Brown has exhibited patience when he has the ball in his hands. Rather than try and run through a hole which may not be there, he will wait on his blockers and then, take off. That trait, Campbell said, is one which is hard to teach a young back. In the same breath, Campbell said brown can also bounce outside and make you have to catch him.
“He can do both but I truly believe that he is best running between the tackles. He reads his blocks well. He follows pullers well. He’s that hammerhead who is going to get you those tough yards when you need it,” Campbell said. “When you look at his film, I would venture to say that you never see him getting tackled and going backwards.
“He is tough, he’s physical and he has a great work ethic. He is a strong kid who will do anything you ask him to do. I think he’ll be a great addition to their program.”
For his own part, Brown said he is a multi-purpose back. He also has the numbers catching the ball --- 25 grabs in high school --- to become an every down back.
“I prefer inside zone but I do believe I have the speed to make plays on the outside, as well. It all depends,” he said. “I definitely think there is a skill to reading blocks and being able to have good vision. Quickness and acceleration helps with that.”
Randall Brown is preparing himself for the rigors, on the field and in the classroom, which come with being a college student-athlete. He understands the speed of the game will change on it and knows that just showing up for class and taking tests will not cut it in college. He also understands that football is something that can and will open doors, which it has already done for him and not solely by his signing with Presbyterian.
“Honestly,” he said when asked the best thing about playing football, “it’s the people that you meet. I’ve met some of my best and closest friends while playing football. Some of that stuff will stick with me forever.”