Commentary

Holy Cross' Randolph going long

QB has become unlikely NFL prospect

Updated: October 30, 2009, 5:22 PM ET
By Jack McCluskey | ESPN.com

WORCESTER, Mass. -- The game had been over for more than 10 minutes, but College of the Holy Cross quarterback Dominic Randolph was still on the field, directing teammates.

The fifth-year senior, who came back for another season in part, he says, because he just wanted the chance to compete again, barked out the play call: "Hey, Big Brothers, photo!"

[+] EnlargeRandolph_Dominic 091028
Kelvin Ma/Icon SMIAfter playing very little at quarterback in high school, Dominic Randolph has rewritten the Holy Cross record book.

Someone from the local Big Brothers Big Sisters program was trying to take a group photo, so it was only natural the quarterback was making sure his teammates (and their Little Brothers) lined up properly. Once everyone assembled, Randolph, still in his purple-and-white-and-dirt-streaked uniform, smiled widely for the camera. After the first flash, though, he glanced down and the smile disappeared.

As the photographers framed another shot, Randolph reached down and gently tugged down the faux-fur hood on the jacket of a teammate's Little Brother, so it wouldn't obscure another boy's face in the photo. Satisfied, Randolph looked back up at the cameras and smiled.

The two NFL scouts who'd been at Fitton Field for the No. 22 Crusaders' 42-28 win over No. 17 Colgate on Saturday had long since departed, but the winning quarterback was still making plays.

That poise and playmaking ability -- on and off the field -- are part of the reason Holy Cross coach Tom Gilmore says: "I think it's got to be one of the best stories in college football this year, and last year for that matter -- he's only got four years playing quarterback. Could you imagine if he had that experience in high school and all?"

Randolph didn't start at quarterback for his high school team, St. Xavier in Cincinnati, because then-first-year coach Steve Specht already had a 6-foot-5, 240-pound signal-caller, Rob Schoenhoft, who had been invited to an Elite 11 quarterback camp and who could, according to Specht, "throw a ball through a cement wall."

Randolph wasn't quite as developed.

"He was a long, rangy young man who you know was going to develop into his body; just didn't know when it was going to happen," Specht said. "And obviously it has happened for Holy Cross."

Not only has it happened on the scale -- Randolph measures 6-3, 223 -- but it also has happened on the field: Randolph is the Crusaders' career leader in touchdown passes (105), passing yards (11,928), yards of total offense (12,568), completions (1,002), pass attempts (1,577) and completion percentage (.635). Meanwhile, following two seasons as a backup at Ohio State, Schoenhoft transferred to Delaware before last season. After throwing more interceptions (10) than touchdowns (six) and enduring a frustrating 4-8 finish with the Fightin' Blue Hens, Schoenhoft quit football.

The "long, rangy young man" who couldn't crack the St. Xavier starting lineup at quarterback -- except for a few games when Schoenhoft was injured, Randolph played not under center but at wide receiver -- has become one of the most prolific passers in Football Championship Subdivision history. Randolph is the active career leader in seven offensive categories (attempts, completions, yards, touchdowns, attempts per game, completions per game and yards per game).

The NFL has noticed Randolph's statistical prowess.

"We've pretty much had everyone come through at least once; some [teams] as many as four times have been through to see him," Gilmore said. "He's on everyone's radar screen from that standpoint.

"I know he's completely focused on winning the Patriot League championship right now, but what he's doing to do that is gaining a lot of attention from the NFL scouts, as well."

You can count Specht among those hoping Randolph makes it to the next level.

"I've told people, 'I hope to God that I'm right up there with the high school coach who cut Michael Jordan his freshman year,'" Specht said, laughing.

While there were at least two NFL scouts on hand for the clash between the Raiders and the Crusaders, one of the scouts left the press box before halftime and never returned. And although the other scout stayed for the entire game, he admitted it was a bit of a slow day for college football in the region.

It didn't feel like a slow day for the Crusaders and Randolph, who put on a show for those hardy enough to brave the cold rain that fell, off and on, all afternoon. The Crusaders won the coin toss and chose to receive. Randolph set the tone right away, leading the offense on a seven-play, 63-yard drive, capped by a 15-yard strike to senior wide receiver Bill Edger. The Crusaders needed only three minutes and four seconds to take a 7-0 lead.

The touchdown was the first of six scores (four passing, two rushing) Randolph would account for on the day. He completed 20 passes to five receivers for 288 yards. But, believe it or not, what the prolific passer -- who has thrived in the no-huddle spread offense Gilmore installed in 2006 -- did with his arm didn't impress Gilmore as much as what he did with his legs.

"He's the best player I've ever been around, and I don't think you can deny that watching him today. He just makes plays," Gilmore said. "To do what he did on the ground today -- I think everyone thought I was kidding that we were going to come out and run the ball; I think everyone thought, 'Aw, yeah, this is some kind of smoke screen.' No, we did a great job running the ball."

Randolph was a big part of that effort, carrying the ball 14 times for 116 yards and those two touchdowns. On one third-and-14 play in the third quarter, with Colgate having drawn within 28-21, Randolph took a shotgun snap and ran 23 yards for the first down, juking two would-be tacklers in the process. (Asked after the game which he preferred, moving the ball through the air or on the ground, Randolph laughed. "It knocks the wind out of you," he said. "It's a little more tiring but it's also fun to run the ball.") That long third-down play set up Randolph for his second rushing touchdown of the day and extended the Crusaders' lead back to two scores.

The 14-point difference, which the Crusaders were able to maintain for most of the game, was only two points fewer than the average Colgate allowed per game coming in. The 116 yards that Randolph piled up on the ground made him only the second player to rush for more than 100 yards against the Raiders this season.

So, how does a player like Randolph at a school like Holy Cross get noticed by the NFL?

"He has to have the physical tools, for starters," Scouts Inc.'s Steve Muench said. "I like [Randolph's] size, and he's shown a strong arm in limited looks."

Physical ability, check.

"On the other hand, teams have to be concerned about the level of competition he's faced thus far," Muench said. "He's never faced [a Football Bowl Subdivision] opponent, as far as I can tell."

Gilmore is focused on winning the Patriot League, not on debating the quality of his team's competition, but he believes winning the remaining four league games will help reinforce Randolph's case for a shot at the next level.

"He just has a unique skill set," Gilmore said. "He has everything that anyone would want in a quarterback. I think the more people see him in action, what he does up close and personal, the more that he's going to sell them."

For Randolph, there will be life beyond football if the NFL doesn't come calling in the late rounds of the April draft. He already has one job offer in financial management with a Fortune 100 company, and as Gilmore said, "I bet you there'd be a line to hire a guy like Dom. He's an intelligent, hard-working, high-character person. Whatever Dominic Randolph does, he's going to do real well."

That doesn't mean the Crusaders quarterback doesn't have his sights set on playing professionally, however.

"That's always been my dream, so I want to try and see if it works out," Randolph said.

The signal-caller said he's focused on fundamentals -- "You can always work on footwork, accuracy and whatnot" -- to improve his pro prospects. And he's realistic about himself as a prospect.

"It's always been a hope and dream," he said, "and the chips will fall where they may and things will hopefully work out."

Jack McCluskey is an editor for ESPN.com.

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