November 14, 2009

All Else Aside, Randolph Yearns For A Championship

By James Greene
Special to GoHolyCross.com

For a quarterback who has posted amazing, almost gaudy statistics since coming to Holy Cross, there is one fact about senior Dominic Randolph that might raise the most eyebrows.

He started only three games at the position in high school.

Randolph was the backup at St. Xavier High School in Cincinnati behind highly-touted Rob Schoenhoft, a top prospect who committed to Ohio State before transferring to Delaware. “I played receiver the other times when I was not playing quarterback,” Randolph explained. That accounts for why he has been able to showcase his legs the last several weeks, helping the Crusaders situate themselves in first place in the Patriot League, but it does not quite explain how this diamond in the rough found his way to Mount St. James and eventually into the record books.

“I knew I wanted to play quarterback so I actually went to a football camp in the area, and then I was informed I should stop by Holy Cross and check it out,” he said. “I stopped here for a day and they liked me a lot, even though I did not have a lot of film or a lot of experience. They ended up giving me a chance because they liked what they saw in camp. I really liked it here and, to be honest, I kind of put all my eggs into one basket at this school. I found out at the last minute that I got in here. They took a chance on me.”

What a reward he’s provided. Randolph is once again a finalist for the Walter Payton Award, given to the top player in Football Championship Subdivision, after finishing 12th in the voting in 2007 and ninth last year. He has shattered numerous Holy Cross and Patriot League marks during his career, rewriting both record books. He holds Crusader single-season records for total offense (3,917 yards), touchdowns responsible for (38), passing yards (3,838), completions (340), attempts (520) and shares the record with Jeff Wiley for touchdown passes (34). All of those marks could be in jeopardy this season, in addition to the career marks he constantly adds to with each game he plays.

Head coach Tom Gilmore has had the ability to watch Randolph mature from day one from the best seat in the house. “I think from the beginning there were some surprises, I would say for him and for everyone,” he remarked. “But ever since his first game, it is not a surprise. I think he has raised the expectation level of himself and of this team to a very high level since he has started. We saw something special in him and those expectations have materialized and he continues to get better.”

This season Randolph has added more accolades to his resume. In the season-opening win over Georgetown, he passed Wiley’s career passing record (9,698 yards) and became the first in school and Patriot League history to toss for more than 10,000 yards. In the win over Colgate, he snapped Steve McNair’s FCS mark for consecutive games with a touchdown pass, which has now reached 39 straight contests. In the Fordham game, he eclipsed 12,000 career passing yards and moved to sixth all-time in FCS history in that category. He is the active leader in touchdown throws in all of Division I with 111, and he already owns the FCS record for consecutive games with at least 200 yards passing at 38, a mark he surpassed last season.

It’s easy for someone to get bogged down in the numbers, but Randolph keeps an even keel about it. “He’s a very grounded individual,” Gilmore said. “Dominic’s focus is on the team’s success. All the individual accolades are just icing on the cake. I don’t even know if he pays attention to them at all.”

Does he? Not really. “To be honest, I didn’t really know that happened until I was told after the game,” Randolph said of breaking McNair’s record. “It means a lot. He was a great player. It’s nice to have that milestone.” However, he added, “like coach Gilmore always says, the stats don’t matter if you don’t win, so that is what we focus on more. Obviously, the record is nice to have though.”

And win is exactly what he’s done. Randolph and his compatriots in the current Holy Cross senior class that will be honored today have helped string together five consecutive winning seasons on the gridiron, the first time that’s happened for the program since 1988-1992. Each November since 2006, the Crusaders have entered the month in a position to win the Patriot League. But every time, they’ve fallen short.

Last season was especially difficult, with Colgate dealing Holy Cross a devastating 28-27 season-ending loss in Hamilton, N.Y., which gave the Raiders to the Patriot League championship and a postseason bid. “Coming up so short at the end like that is not fun,” Randolph said. “It was nice to be in contention. We hadn’t been in a position like that in a while, so that was kind of our motivation for the whole offseason. And then coming into this season, that was one big game we wanted to overcome, which we did three weeks ago, and now we have a couple more to worry about.”

Randolph and company exorcised some demons in that 42-28 Family Weekend victory over Colgate, where the senior accounted for six touchdowns on the afternoon, four in the air and two with his legs. “That was a big victory,” he said. “We learned we could compete with the best of them. We had been waiting a long time for that game.”

In addition to the six scores he was responsible for, Randolph occupied an unfamiliar position for Holy Cross in that game – leading rusher – thanks to the 116 yards he gained on the ground. “It was new to me,” he said, chuckling. “It was kind of fun. The coaches did a good job calling the right plays and we knew that we could run against them. The coaches wanted to utilize me because they don’t usually account for the quarterback. When you can run the ball, it takes pressure off the offensive line so that they don’t have to worry about the defense blitzing all the time. It made the game a little easier.”

In addition to Randolph’s superstar performances on the gridiron, he’s played one off the field as well, getting involved in the Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter of Central Massachusetts, serving as the “big” to his “little,” Franky. “I never grew up with a brother,” he said of his reasons for volunteering with the organization. “I have someone looking up to me who is a guy too. He doesn’t come from much. I’m giving him a chance to see what it takes to go to college and be a role model in his life. It means a lot for me to be a part of his life because he doesn’t get opportunities like we have, so I want to be there for him. It’s a good experience overall because you’re in these kids’ lives and they look up to you and they feel they can tell you anything.” Even after graduation, Randolph says he and Franky will stay close. “I plan on being in contact with him no matter what, wherever I am.”

“Wherever” just might be professional football. He’s garnered the attention of several NFL teams, some of which have visited twice to see him. How does he keep a level head? “First, my dad, he always talks to me about stuff like that, but also the coaches do a good job focusing us on the task at hand,” Randolph said, downplaying the attention. “We don’t talk about it too much. That stuff will work out after the season, if it works out.”

With Senior Day here, Randolph is reflective of his time on Mount St. James and grateful for it. “It flew by, it’s unbelievable,” he said. “We were very blessed to play college football, especially at this level. Being given that opportunity and playing with the players we’ve played with and the coaches we’ve been coached by, that’s what you take away. And then there’s obviously the academics Holy Cross offers. That’s one of the most important parts. You can take a lot away from Holy Cross. There’s a lot of good things from this school.”

Today’s game features another showdown with implications for the Patriot League championship. Holy Cross dealt Lafayette a 27-26 loss last year in Easton, Pa., on a Randolph touchdown pass to Rob Koster with just six seconds remaining. Winning today’s game above all else, according to Gilmore, is tops on Randolph’s mind.

“I think he’ll look back on all the individual accolades at some point in his life and be proud of those accomplishments,” the head coach said of Randolph. “Right now the one thing he’s focused on is to win a Patriot League championship. Everything else is just secondary.”