Commentary

Rand's loyalty, NFL passion run deep

Updated: June 8, 2011, 1:06 PM ET
By Roger Lotring | Special to ESPN.com

"Time for pain," announces Gary Garner, Stone Sour's tour manager, prompting the end of a conversation that could have gone on for hours. Backstage, the only thing more pressing than talking about football for guitarist Josh Rand is sitting with tattoo artist Tokyo Hiro for his very first ink: the Atlanta Falcons insignia.

[+] EnlargeSteve Bartkowski
US PresswireJosh Rand's attraction to the Atlanta Falcons began with Steve Bartkowski.

Growing up in Des Moines, the closest NFL cities are Minneapolis and Kansas City, three hours north and south of the Iowa capital, with Chicago and Green Bay several hundred miles away. So why does an Iowa kid pick the Falcons as his favorite team?

Initially, says Rand, it was the novelty of a hometown hero, quarterback Steve Bartkowski, coming from a city not known for breeding celebrities. "He was born in Des Moines, on the south side. That intrigued me. Then, when I really started getting into football, they had Deion Sanders, Andre Rison, and I've been a fan since."

But following the Falcons has been a roller-coaster ride for Rand, 36. "We went through arguably one of the worst seasons in 2007, when our franchise quarterback went to [prison] and our coach quit midseason because he couldn't handle dealing with men instead of boys he could boss around." But his allegiance never faltered, and he figures that's what makes him a die-hard fan. "It's always been my team and always will be."

Nearly as much as the Falcons, Josh is also a student of the game. He showed his football acumen by compiling a mock draft for The Life. It was an off night when he watched the first round of the 2011 NFL draft on the tour bus in the parking lot, because the NFL Network was unavailable in the hotel.

The Life caught up with Rand at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., to review his mock draft. "How bad did I do?" he says, laughing. He correctly predicted five picks, with several other likely accurate projections skewed by unanticipated trades ironically triggered by the Atlanta Falcons.

The Life: You predicted five; rounded up that's 15 percent. But if you take out trades …

Rand: My team probably messed up everything for a lot of teams. [Laughs] But I'll take that, with me being as wrong as I was in the mock draft. Moving up and getting [Julio] Jones, that's a huge move.

I'm on the bus, and I see there's a trade between the Cleveland Browns and the Atlanta Falcons, so I'm jumping up and down. I was totally stoked because -- I don't think it will ever come out, but I think he was the guy [they wanted] anyway, even over [A.J.] Green. I really believe that. He's a better fit to our offense.

The thing that stuck out to me is his blocking. The jury will be out, who's going to end up being better from a receiver standpoint. But for what we need, I think Jones fits the role better than Green, just because of his blocking ability.

The Life: What surprised you most about the first round?

Rand: My team. There were a couple [of other] surprise things, I thought. I was thinking that Arizona was going to take a quarterback at No. 5. But I'll still stick with what I said in the mock draft; I think that, overall, [Patrick Peterson] was the best player in the draft. I wish we could have ended up getting him.

Another thing -- it didn't surprise me, but it made me go, "Wow, their line is going to be amazing" -- was Detroit. I'm just like, "Oh my God!" [Laughs] I mean, nobody can block [Ndamukong] Suh to begin with. So now you're going to put [Nick] Fairley and have [Kyle] Vanden Bosch back? But when you have to play against Adrian Peterson twice a year, and the Bears who love to run the ball, they needed to do that.

The other surprise, to me, was New Orleans drafting back up and getting Mark Ingram. It's like, how did they do it again? They ended up getting arguably the best running back in the draft, and one of the top three defensive ends. It's like, what? [Laughs]

[+] EnlargeJulio Jones
Jerry Lai/US PresswireIt wasn't whom he expected the Falcons would draft, but Josh Rand is very happy with Julio Jones in the first round.

The Life: For somebody to be that knowledgeable, to make an educated statement about 32 NFL teams and 32 individual college players, you really follow football.

Rand: [Laughs] I'm borderline obsessive with my Falcons team, so a lot of that knowledge comes from, who are they going after? And whoever they get, how does it affect the team? Obviously, the top five picks are simple because you hear about these guys since college football ends, and it's every day. Everybody knew Cam Newton was going to Carolina; that was an easy pick.

The Life: Are you the guy who all your friends will call in September asking about these draft players?

Rand: Yeah. It's more of just being a fan of my own team, but I also like to look at the division opponents, who they're getting. It killed me that [Adrian] Clayborn [went to Tampa Bay], 'cause that's who I wanted Atlanta to get. It's like being smacked twice across the face, because you take a guy from Iowa, and then you put him on the division rival. [Laughs]

I know what he's capable of, and he's a good guy. I know that from, obviously, being from the [same] state. For my team, I'm really glad that [general manager Thomas] Dimitroff and [Coach Mike] Smith are so high on having good character people. That's what all these dynasties had, or have; it's all very intelligent players, good guys, good leadership in the locker room.

The Life: Is character still a big issue for fans? Is that as important now, as when you were a kid?

Rand: That's a good question. I mean, for me it is. Going back to the draft for a second, and the Falcons moving up and what they gave up, I looked at potential free agents at wide receiver versus defensive end, which is another huge need for them. Yes, there are big names there, but all of them have that character issue, whether it's Terrell Owens or Randy Moss or Chad Ochocinco. Are they great players? Yeah. What's sad is that people don't realize that Terrell Owens is almost second at every wide receiver category. But nobody will ever acknowledge that because of all his off-the-field stuff.

I would rather have them trade up and give up the picks that they did, to get the wide receiver that they do need and get a defensive end, than drafting one of those guys who could potentially undo everything that Mike Smith has done in the last three years -- which was pretty much get rid of all the character issues. Basically, they cleaned out the locker room after [Michael] Vick went to prison.

The Life: As a fan, how did you feel at that time? He was your team's rock star, and you found out about some deplorable character issues.

Rand: Even as a fan -- I love watching him play, don't get me wrong -- I was never sold that he would ever take [Atlanta] to a championship, even from day one.

He had a wonderful year last year. It was unbelievable to watch him. And it's a great story. I'm not by any means justifying what he did, because it was horrible and wrong. But everybody does get a second chance, and the dude did. Other players in certain sports, even football, who have done stuff that you can argue is just as bad, have been slapped on the wrist. This guy did 18 months' hard time. So, I'm glad that he made the most of his opportunity, and he was given that opportunity, because I think everybody does deserve that.

That being said, if you came to me right now and said, here's Michael Vick, 2001; here's Matt Ryan, 2008; I'm gonna go with Ryan because I think he will ultimately end up winning at least one Super Bowl.

The Life: It's ironic to talk about Michael Vick in terms of having been your team's rock star. Do you find it funny that you play in a band and may be a better role model than some football players?

Rand: [Laughs] I really didn't think of it until you just said that. That's a good question. But, at the same time, you put me in the same situation 15 years ago when I was 20 years old, like some of these guys, and give me $35 million up front, it's easy to see why they can stray down the wrong path. That's why I support the rookie salary cap, like in basketball. I so hope they eventually push that through in the NFL.

It's a privilege to play the game, and that's what these guys need to learn again, that just like music for us, there's a thousand people that would love to take your spot.

[+] EnlargeFalcons tattoo
Tokyo Hiro Josh Rand proudly sports his new Falcons tattoo.

The Life: Just for the sake of doing it.

Rand: Exactly. The love. That's the one thing I do think is missing from the NFL that was there 20, 30 years ago. Those guys all played because they loved the game and pushed themselves to be the best and win championships. Now, it's more, "Oh, I want X amount of dollars, so I'm going to hold out."

It might have even been ESPN The Magazine that rated the top 50 richest athletes. Well, three of them were NFL rookies that hadn't even stepped foot on the field. That's ridiculous to me. I mean, make 'em earn it. Put in a two-year trial period, then give them incentives. I would like to see incentives across the board for everybody, but that will never happen. But with the rookies, they need to get it under control because it's crazy.

Plus, by doing that, it opens up more cap room money to take care of your veterans that have earned the right to have a better paycheck, even if it's some of your role player guys that have been there forever. Every team has that one guy who's not going to the Pro Bowl every year, but he's the glue to their offensive line, or special-teams unit, or something like that. More of that money could go toward the veterans that have earned [the right] to make more, instead of, "Oh, we can't spend that much because we've got to sign blah-blah-blah next year, because we've got a second-round pick that's going to be worth this much."

The Life: A lot of people have looked toward the Patriots, and what [coach Bill] Belichick has done with non-superstar players -- role players buying into the team concept. Talent is not the only thing needed to succeed.

Rand: Yeah, leadership and just being able to pick up the schemes. That's what impresses me with the Patriots, especially from a defensive standpoint. Not many teams put in a new defensive plan week in and week out. It takes a great defense -- a very smart defense -- to be able to do that at the end of the day.

And, as you said, it's totally a team effort. No one person is bigger than the team. I remember hearing a quote that [Belichick] said, just as a joke: "I can even put Tom Brady out there on kickoff returns." No one person is better than the team is what he was stressing. That's why they won three championships in the last decade.

The Life: Down played New York City the night of the first round. In the middle of the show, Phil Anselmo made a point of announcing that New Orleans had drafted Mark Ingram.

Rand: It's pretty funny, because we're just fans like anybody else. I think that sometimes surprises people, just how passionate we can get. My guitar tech has his computer up [on his work box]. So, the second night, I was coming [off stage] to see one of the websites telling us who's picked, literally as we were playing.

I mean, I scared people out of my house in 2008 when the Falcons lost to the Cardinals that year. [Laughs] At halftime, everybody was ready to go home. [Laughs] I threw my remote through my TV.

The Life: You're the type of fan who yells at the TV, stands up, stomps around?

Rand: Oh, yeah! I usually stand up. And I don't even think about it. I'm just so into it. The only game that I was mellow, honestly, was the Green Bay game this last year in the playoffs. My daughters were still up, and they were watching it. They're 12 and 8, so I really had to hold myself in check or go into the other room. [Laughs]

Even though I'm a Falcons fan, the Packers are my least favorite team. It goes back because my dad is a huge Chicago Bears fan. And all my siblings are. My dad, every year he takes his vacation and goes to Bears camp. That's his vacation. So, it's just been put in my mind that you automatically hate the Green Bay Packers. [Laughs]

So, to lose to them at home, the way that they did, I was just like, man, I can't believe this is happening. But, you know, it is what it is. After [Ryan] threw the pick at the end of the second quarter, I was just like, there ain't no way they're coming back. So, I went outside, cussed a little bit, came back in. I was like, you know what, they're not there yet. It was obvious to me.

The Life: Which came first as a kid, music or football?

Rand: Music, actually. I was really into music. My first album, which was "Kiss Alive II," was bought for me when I was 3 years old. And my first day to kindergarten, I was wearing a Bob Seger shirt. And my first concert was Kiss when I was like, 5.

The Life: What introduced you to football, and sports in general?

Rand: Just my dad. Just being around him and him being so passionate with sports. And then playing flag football. It just kind of grew from there.

The Life: Did you initially think you might do something with athletics rather than music?

Rand: I tried. We have an arena team, and I went to open tryouts in the '90s. They had a guy quarterbacking for them, when the team started up, named Kurt Warner. He might be good. He might end up doing something during his career. [Laughs]

The Life: Was there any point when you thought, if I'm not actually going to play, what can I do that can be a football-related career?

Rand: I don't think I ever looked at it like that. I played football through junior high, high school, then ended up doing flag football and the tryout for the arena team. At that point, my ability at guitar was where it is now. My knowledge is obviously a little bit more now, just because I've been able to do it for 10 years.

With music, eventually this will probably end up running its course. Then, it's like, where do I go from there? One of the things I've always wanted to do is be a guitar teacher. There's something about maybe being able to pass something on and watch somebody else achieve something, and being part of helping them achieve that goal. That's honestly what I'll probably end up doing after Stone Sour, just teaching locally at home because that was one of the things I always wanted to do.

I've been taking courses through Berklee online. I'm actually one class from [earning] my certificate. It's just so hard to do when you're on the road. [Laughs] It's been nightmarish for me. Some days I don't have Internet, and it's like, oh my God, I'm going to fail this week! Some days you're on an airplane to Australia, and it's 23 hours of flying.

[+] EnlargeJosh Rand
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty ImagesCareful where you sit if you watch a Falcons playoff game with Stone Sour guitarist Josh Rand.

The Life: And you've always had that in the back of your mind?

Rand: Yeah! Initially, when I was younger, I wanted to go properly to Berklee and get a master's degree. And then my first child came, and that kind of changed everything. [Laughs] At this point, there's no way I would go back to a campus for three to four years to get a degree. But I'm doing the online courses.

The thing I like about it is I'm working on stuff that I don't know. Once you realize that you don't know everything, [Laughs] and you commit to that, it opens up a whole other world. As a band, I really want to keep pushing forward and not [repeatedly] release the same record. I felt the best way to do that would be to go back to school.

I'm taking a jazz course, and I have to do a blues course. It's like, me playing blues guitar is about as painful as it can get. But somewhere in there I think it will shine somewhere else that will eventually become Stone Sour. That wouldn't have happened if I hadn't taken that course.

The Life: The music some musicians play is influenced by things that sound nothing like it. Everything impacts you and your music, whether the audience realizes it or not.

Rand: Yeah, I listen to a lot of different stuff. Last week, on a day off, Corey [Taylor]'s room tied to mine, had one of the doors between adjoining rooms. He was getting mad and telling me to turn it down -- I had Ray Charles blaring. It puts me in a certain mind, and it's relaxing to me, and how do I know that the next song I write isn't somehow influenced by that?

There have been several ideas -- I mean, "30/30-150," if I told everybody where the initial inspiration came from, the initial cadence for the intro, everybody would be like, What? It's completely left field, and it's kind of funny.

The Life: Where did it come from?

Rand: MC Hammer. It was played as a joke, and then I couldn't get the rhythmic part out of my head. So I ended up kind of putting my own little spin on it, and the beginning of "30/30-150" is actually inspired by "U Can't Touch This."

If you listen to it, it doesn't sound like [it]. But it set the wheels in motion, which is just so funny to me. What are the chances that you go to a party, somebody plays that to make a joke, and then you walk away and end up writing what ends up being a Grammy-nominated song, all by chance? How weird is that, because I would never listen to that at home, ever? [Laughs]

The Life: Do you draw musical inspiration from watching football?

Rand: Not really. When I write a song, usually it's however I feel that day. And usually it's pretty aggressive stuff because that's kind of my role in this band, to bring more of the heavier stuff.

I mean, I play a lot of guitar when I'm watching football, unless it's Atlanta. But I've never been inspired … well, actually, in 2000, when the Rams were the Greatest Show on Turf, they played a Monday night game. That was basically the night I wrote all the music for "Get Inside." The beginning of what Stone Sour is today was that night when the Rams played on "Monday Night Football," and I wrote all the music exactly like it is on the record, noodling around watching Torry Holt [and] Az-Zahir Hakim run down the side of the field -- that one highlight where they're running side by side -- it was that night.

The Life: When did you realize that you had stumbled on to something?

Rand: Three years later, when the album was released. [Laughs] That's always stuck out to me, that moment. It was so cool. I just remember watching Kurt Warner and watching those guys run down the field, going, "Wow, this might be the greatest offensive team that I've ever seen." They just seemed unstoppable.

The Life: But you weren't conscious of what it triggered?

Rand: No! And then I just wrote the song that night. Other songs, if you ask me where I was and when I wrote them, I'd be like, uh … somewhere in my basement. But that song, I look back and feel that's the beginning. That song was the beginning of what was to come for this band. It really started with that song.

M.C. Hammer
AP PhotoMC Hammer has a surprising link to Stone Sour's "30/30-150."

The Life: And it wasn't the Falcons.

Rand: It wasn't the Falcons. At that time it was a rival! [Laughs]

The Life: Have you given any thought to writing music for sports, like Sevendust, who did something for the Falcons?

Rand: I think if I was approached, maybe I would try to do something. I would probably want a little bit of guidance on that. Right now, my main priority is to go back and finish the school thing and start focusing on this next record for us. It seems like that opportunity is going to happen with us, where instead of both bands [Stone Sour and Slipknot] leapfrogging one another, we're actually going to get to do consecutive records.

Some people ask if that's been a curse or a blessing. It's really helped both bands because it allows you to step away for a couple years and not have the pressure of, 'OK, we need that follow-up.' We haven't had that up to this point, but it's looking like we will, so I want to make sure that I'm prepared the best I can for this next record.

The Life: Were there discussions about the possibility that your singer might also join another band?

Rand: Well, we knew that was up in the air. All of us grew up together. Three of us knew each other before we could play an instrument. I told him, 'If that's what you feel like you need to do, I'm fine with that. I don't want to take away something that you want to really do, and you want to have fun with. Just be honest with me. I just don't want to read it on Blabbermouth.net.' [Laughs]

He's jammed with those guys over the years -- or several of them -- and he enjoys doing it. It's fun. It's not the grind that it can sometimes be for him in Stone Sour or Slipknot, where it's just interview after interview. I see his schedule and it's a different level than everybody else in either band. So, I'm sure if that were to happen, it would have been fun for him. It could have taken some of the pressure off him, just because of the other guys that are in the band. So, I get it. The only thing I asked was, 'Don't B.S. me, and don't drag us along, if that's the decision you're going to make.'

The Life: If you were the CEO of the Atlanta Falcons, what would be your mission statement, the goal for your team?

Rand: Oh, wow. I guess, for me, it's probably what the Patriots [do]. It's a team; no one's bigger than the team. And, too, it's a privilege to play the game. Play the game the way the game was created, which is, it's about heart and pure love of doing it, not just the paycheck. I think the game needs to go back to that, especially if you've watched "NFL Top 100: NFL's Greatest Players." I bought the DVD, and you go back and start watching all these guys that played for two grand, and watch how they played the game. It's like, you don't get that effort now, and these guys make $20 million.

Roger Lotring is an author, freelance writer and radio show host based in Connecticut.

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