Facing challenges with class by Bryan Johnston

Even though quarterback Bryan Randall began the 2004 season having started 25 consecutive games and being close to breaking several long-standing school records, he's used to looking over his shoulder and fighting for his job.

Randall was the state player of the year as a senior in high school in Williamsburg, Va., yet he has been forced to prove himself at every step of his Virginia Tech career. As a freshman, he had to beat out Chris Clifton--now a wide receiver for the Hokies--and the since-departed Will Hunt for the backup quarterback spot. Three games into Randall's sophomore year, he took over the starting duties when senior Grant Noel suffered a knee injury, leading Tech to several big wins, including a victory over Air Force in the Diamond Walnut San Francisco Bowl.

Bryan Randall
Bryan Randall

Battling with Marcus Vick for the starting job last year, Randall handled the scrutiny and criticism with the class and poise expected of a team leader. Take last year's game against No. 2-ranked Miami, for example. It was possibly one of the biggest wins in school history--ending with a 31-7 rout on national television--but Randall had perhaps his worst game in a Tech uniform. He went 0-for-4 passing with one interception and was taken out of the game in favor of Vick, who led the Hokies to victory.

As the clock ticked down and the frenzied Tech crowd was ready to storm the field, Randall wasn't sulking on the bench, his head buried in a towel. Instead, he was standing up, facing the bleachers, waving a towel, and encouraging the fans to start the celebration. After the game, he answered every question from the media with dignity, saying that the day was about the win, not him.

Surprising? Hardly. This is the same person who:

• graduated in three years and will be working on a master's degree this fall;

• spent two-and-a-half weeks this summer with teammate James Anderson on a mission for a Christian-based group, Athletes In Action, working with underprivileged inner-city youth in Los Angeles;

• tutors freshman quarterbacks Sean Glennon and Cory Holt in the video room and on the practice field so that he can leave the future of Virginia Tech football in good hands; and

• took time out of his round at the ACC Media Kickoff Golf Tournament to teach teammate Vincent Fuller--who was playing his first-ever round--the finer points of the game, at which he himself is above average.

A great person off the field, Randall isn't too shabby of a player, either. The quarterback entered his final season within range of some impressive career marks. He needs 175 completions, 1,766 passing yards, 847 yards of total offense, and 21 touchdown passes to become the school leader in each category.

Not surprising at all, really.

Bryan Johnston is assistant director of sports information.