Skip to main content

News | Minnesota Vikings –

Vikings Draft Diaries: John Randle Turned 'Breakup' into Breakthrough


Leading up to the 2020 NFL Draft, which is scheduled for April 23-25, Vikings Entertainment Network is sharing draft-day memories from recent years and decades ago. Some might have had more memorable experiences than others, but all have stories to tell.

A total of 255 prospects will be selected during this year's NFL Draft.

But phones won't stop ringing after that 255th player is drafted. Rather, scouts and coaches and general managers from across the league will quickly pivot to calling those players who were unpicked but still show potential.

After all, undrafted free agents sometimes develop into key pieces of an NFL team.

Take Anthony Harris, for instance, who signed with the Vikings in 2015 as a UDFA and last season started 14 regular-season games and tied for the league lead with six interceptions.

Or Adam Thielen, who got his start as a tryout player in 2013 and has developed into Minnesota's No. 1 receiver.

Every once in a while, those undrafted players create an NFL legacy so impactful that it will live on forever in the Pro Football Hall of Fame. Of the 326 individuals enshrined in Canton, Ohio, only 16 of them entered the league as free agents.

John Randle is part of that special group.

The Vikings gave Randle a shot in 1990, and soon thereafter he made it worth their while.

"Coming here to Minnesota, it was a dream come true," Randle said in 2015. "After that first year, I wanted to be … more involved. I wanted to be a starter. I wanted to make an impact. I wanted to play next to a Chris Doleman and Henry Thomas.

"I wanted to be a Purple People Eater," he continued. "You had [Vikings athletic trainer] Freddy Zamberletti telling you these different stories about what it's like to be around Carl Eller, Jim Marshall, Alan Page. Being a young kid from Texas, I'm like, 'Wow – I want to be one of those guys. I want to be a Viking. I want to go out there and wear my Purple with my horns and show everybody what it's about to be in the National Football League for a free agent who wasn't expected to be here."

Randle went on to do just that.

He played 11 seasons for Minnesota, during which he was named All-Pro six times (1993-98) and went to the Pro Bowl each of those six seasons. He started 150 of 176 games in Purple and racked up 486 tackles, 114 sacks, 25 forced fumbles, nine fumble recoveries and an interception.

During an interview with in 2017, Randle shared his perspective as a free agent who went on to play 14 years in the NFL and in 2010 was inducted into the Hall of Fame.

"When you're undrafted, you feel as if you're unwanted – nobody really believed in you to draft you," Randle reflected. "I always describe it as, your girlfriend breaking up with you. She breaks up with you the day of your prom – and you've gotta go to your prom by yourself. And you walk in there by yourself, and you find a date. That's kind of what it's like being undrafted and coming in the National Football League. It's a strange feeling."

Randle attended the 2016 NFL Draft in Chicago and described his feelings while taking in the weekend.

"I saw guys getting drafted, getting a phone call, and … someone asked me, 'Man, doesn't it feel so cool to remember how it was to be drafted?' And I'm like, 'No, I wasn't. I don't know what it feels like. I don't know what it was like to go to the combine.' It's an unusual feeling," Randle said.

Ask Randle and he'll tell you there's a special trait that sets apart those whose NFL journeys started after draft weekend.

"I think a lot of times for undrafted guys, it's a quality that makes you play harder because you feel as if nobody thought you were good enough to be in the NFL," Randle said. "So free agent guys, I think they carry a chip on their shoulders.

"I think that's something to be said about us," he added.