John Randle will serve as a defensive co-captain for captain Cris Carter's Pro Bowl team. View photos of Randle from his 7 Pro Bowls as a player.
EDEN PRAIRIE, Minn. — Vikings Hall of Famers Cris Carter and John Randle have 15 Pro Bowl appearances combined, but they've never seen one from the vantage point they'll have this week.
Carter, who went to eight straight Pro Bowls (1993-2000) was selected as an alumni captain and tabbed Randle, who made the same honorary trip those first six seasons, to assist.
The receiver and defensive tackle will form their team from a pool of players who were selected by a combination of votes from coaches, players and fans. The draft will be televised at 7 p.m. (CT) Wednesday on NFL Network. They will coach against a team led by former Cowboys Hall of Famer Michael Irvin and perennial Pro Bowler Darren Woodson.
Vikings.com recently caught up with Randle during a visit to Winter Park to retrace his trips to the Pro Bowl and discuss the 2015 game that is scheduled for Sunday in Arizona (instead of Hawaii this year). The ESPN telecast of the game is scheduled to start at 7 p.m. (CT).
Randle entered the NFL with little fanfare. He joined the Vikings as an undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M-Kingsville in 1990 but kept working hard. He said practicing against Hall of Fame guard Randall McDaniel and tackle Gary Zimmerman and with fellow Hall of Fame defender Chris Doleman made him better.
"I was speechless the first time I found out I was going to the Pro Bowl because that's something that, at the time, it was only voted on by your peers, so I was shocked," Randle said. "I wanted to go, but finding out I had succeeded in making it, I was shocked."
Randle stacked the laurels as he kept taking down passers. Eventually he finished with 114 sacks (third in Vikings history) in 11 seasons and retired with 137.5 (the most by a defensive tackle in league history).
"I always looked at it as the defensive tackle is closer to the quarterback than the defensive end, so I said to myself, 'I'm closer, so the chances of me getting to the quarterback is quicker than the defensive end, it's more of a possibility,' so that's the first thing I instilled in my head," Randle said. "Second of all, I looked at playing the position as if my situation was they were going to cut me, so I went out every day in practice and every game as if it was my last chance to play and that's the way I tried to play my whole career. I went out there regardless of what the situation was, if we were winning or losing, I played every play as if it was my last."
Cris Carter is a captain for one of this year's Pro Bowl team. View photos of Carter from his 8 Pro Bowls as a player.
The trips to Honolulu involved long flights, but the experience never grew tiresome.
"I did this thing where I would stop, look around and be in awe because here I was at the Pro Bowl," Randle said. "I think for every guy who goes there it's exciting, it's a wonderful feeling to bring your friends or family there because it shows you going there as a player, how much guys respect you to have you go represent your teammates, but also for your family to see you go there, it's a wonderful trip."
The format for the game changed from AFC versus NFC last year. Randle said he is excited about the change in format.
"It's a new way of looking at the Pro Bowl, so it's almost like my first time at the Pro Bowl again," he said. "I'm going to bring excitement, I'm going to bring that non-stop hypeness to my guys so they know I'm going to be excited. They're going to come out there and see me thrilled, as if I was a fan, a teammate. I'm going to be excited because this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to coach in the Pro Bowl."
Randle said he and Carter have worked on their draft strategy and look forward to coaching their team.
"I know having Cris Carter on my side, I'm in good hands as always," Randle said.