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A Conversation with Former Virginia Tech Quarterback Bryan Randall: Part II

This time we chat about the 2004 season, Justin Fuente, and what it will take for the Hokies to return to winning ACC Championships.

We dive further into the football side of things in this portion of our conversation with Hokies' legend Bryan Randall.

Check out Part One here if you haven't already.

SI: In 2004 you were a part of one of the bigger seasons in Tech history. You were 'the guy' at quarterback for the first time in a little bit, the team rallied a number of times and won the ACC Championship. What are some of your highlights from that season?

"That season right there for me, it was everything. Even the way coming from the previous year going into the season we were picked to be like 7th or 8th in the conference. Just from the jump we really weren't given much respect. The expectations weren't very high for us as a team. We were really a young team. We were senior driven, but we had a lot of young guys who we knew were going to have to contribute in order for us to be successful. 

We had the starting game with USC. Going into that year knowing we were starting with the number one team in the country...there's really no bigger test. Now we weren't used to coming out and playing a team of that caliber first game. 

2004, plenty of games, plenty of momentum games for us. We came out and lost that first game and then we lose to N.C. State that year...I just remember after that N.C. State loss coach [Kevin] Rogers meeting with me in the quarterback room and telling me that he really felt we could run the table." 

Editor's Note: The Hokies were 2-2 overall at this point and after a rough offensive performance against the Wolfpack, not many were feeling optimistic. 

"It sounded crazy at the time, but the way he laid it out to us he was like, 'I'm telling you B, we really have a chance to run the table here we've just got to take it one at a time,' and daggone if we didn't." 

SI: There were a ton of stars on that team, a lot of really good players and talent. Some of those guys now are part of the coaching staff. What's that like for you knowing the guys who are calling the shots?

"It's funny you say that because I was thinking about it today not even thinking about this interview, I was thinking about Justin Hamilton and Darryl Tapp up there and I'm like, 'Man who would have thought?"

Justin was my roommate my freshman year so we came up early together. He was like the guy who was the epitome of a team player as far as what he did moving around positions, whatever he needed to do to help the team and he always gave it his all. When I found out Justin was coaching one that thing that I did know from knowing him personally is he's going to give you everything he has. That was just his mentality as a player and I know it's no different as a coach. 

Tapp is the same thing. Tapp might be the hungriest guy I've ever seen as far as preparation and getting his body ready. That man was truly dedicated. It's two guys that I know personally who I know what type of players they were, what type of attitudes they had, what type of hunger, what type of dedication they had to the program. 

When you know that and you see that, to me, it's just a good feeling and you're really expecting the same thing as a coach. I definitely have high expectations for those guys and I think they're going to do really well."

SI: You've met coach Fuente, what are your impressions of him?

"I thought coach Fuente was definitely the right choice for the program. I felt like he brought a new dynamic, especially with the offense. Coming from Memphis I thought he brought a lot of energy. I just knew that really it would just come down to the type of recruiting.

I believe in him as a coach. I believe he has what it takes to win games, to make guys play for him. He just came off to me as the type of coach who as a player, you really want to play for him. A guy who you know he's going to give his all and he's going to be there to lay it on the line right with you. That's the kind of vibe I got from coach Fuente. I just know that if we can get the right players at Tech, and keep getting players there, then I know that, there's no doubt in my mind that he can win."

SI: What do you think Tech has to do to get back to winning ACC championships? 

"When I was coming up as far as the in state recruiting, after that Michael Vick Sugar Bowl and the next year they go 10-1 or whatever it was, the dynamic was kind of changing. What that did for us in state as far as the players wanting to come to Tech, we all just kind of followed each other there. I think out class probably had 10-15 guys in like the top 50 in the state of Virginia and we probably had three or four in the top ten. 

I think that's important. I think you've got to start with the in state recruiting. I think you build your nucleus there. It kind of becomes the thing to do.

At our time if you're looking to compete, you came to you've got guys that are looking to leave the state you know looking to go to the Florida State's and Clemson's as their first choices. It definitely all comes with winning. Winning is a natural cure-all." 

SI: When you were coming up was it really just like you said that Tech was the choice for Virginia guys or did you even consider UVA?     

"I took an unofficial visit to UVA, my official visit got cancelled....Something was going on with their team that they cancelled all their official visits the week I was supposed to go. It kind of just secured what I already felt. I was giving UVA basically the benefit of the doubt like, 'okay I'm gonna take a visit and do my due diligence', but that just sealed the deal for me. I knew they were already a long shot to begin with." 

SI: This is based on Wikipedia so bear with me, but it looks like you played pro ball a lot longer than I realized including in China. What was that about and what kept you playing so long after the NFL was out of the picture?

"After the NFL was out of the picture, that was '07 my training camp with the Steelers that was my last time there, I ended up going to Canada. During these times I was in these camps but I wasn't really playing. I'm in training camps, I'm practicing, I'm going through all of the offseason body wasn't getting beat up but I was still enjoying it. I still enjoyed the camaraderie, the atmosphere, getting to travel, and I still loved the game. So it came to a point where I'm still feeling fresh, I still had it and a coach called me and asked if I was interested in playing indoor ball. Now I had seen the Arena game on TV but I was like, 'I'm never playing indoor football. I'm just not interested in that.' 

...I was approached by a coach asking if I was interested in playing in Richmond. They were putting a team together. I said, 'You know what? that would be cool to do.' I can stay in shape and we had some good guys, Vince Hall, Noland Burchette, Rodney Landers, it was legit.

...I ended up getting drafting to that China league and we went over there, it was the inaugural season. We basically did a tour of China playing games. We had six teams and every team would play in a city. Once we finished that city we moved on to the next city. Man, it was one of the best experiences of my life. 

It was a blast and it's definitely one of those things that I never would have believed I'd be playing football in was one of those once in a lifetime opportunities. Football has taken me so many places."

A special thanks to Bryan Randall for his time. He's a true Hokie in every sense of the word and one of the best quarterbacks in school history.