Blue Bomber Report Record: 6–6–0

Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

The straw that stirs the drink

Well-rounded Randle getting rave reviews for early work

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Back in the glory days of Cal Murphy's and Mike Riley's championship Blue Bombers teams, it could be argued offensive tackle Chris Walby was the prototype those coaches looked for when searching for players. Rough, tough and ready.

Meet Chris Randle: today's man. Smart, hard-working and productive. Give Mike O'Shea 12 a side like Randle and he'd be glad to take his chances against anybody else's best in the CFL.

"He's spectacular," said the Winnipeg head coach of Randle. "What a pro. I like watching him work every day,"

GM Kyle Walters believes the Randle acquisition in the off-season was the most important deal he made next to signing quarterback Drew Willy.

"Chris Randle, if you were to ask me, is the one guy, other than Drew Willy, that is separate from everybody else we brought in," said Walters. "From a leadership and work-ethic standpoint he's been great. And he's a helluva football player."

Randle is often the first player in the locker-room on workdays, and he's a film-room junkie. Anything he can do to upgrade his performance, Randle is there.

On Monday, when a call was put in for an interview request, the Bombers PR department said they'd look into it. When?

"I'm not even kidding, but I can't reach him right now because he's visiting with kids at the children's hospital," said the flak. "One of the first to sign up to do it. We had about 30 guys on the list, but Chris was right at the top of the sheet."

All of this, the hard work and strong community guy means nothing if the results aren't there on the field. Fans, coaches and GMs want football players first and good citizens second. And in many cases, they're willing to forget about the latter so long as they get the former.

Randle, however, is both.

Last week's win over the Montreal Alouettes had Randle's stamp all over it. With the Bombers offence struggling and his team trailing 30-22 in the fourth quarter, Randle stepped in front of a Troy Smith pass and scampered 28 yards for a touchdown to get Winnipeg back in the game.

Defensive co-ordinator Gary Etcheverry has given Randle tough coverage assignments each week and the third-year man has lived up to the challenge.

"I'm still growing as a player. I've got more to learn, and I think I have more to give," said Randle. "I want to be a Blue Bomber for a long time. What they're doing here, it's exciting.

"When Kyle Walters acquired me, he started telling me what they were going to do here. I was watching as they started signing players and hiring coaches and I just got more excited. There's a real feeling of excitement here. We think we can do something special. But we're not walking around patting backs. We're working and trying to get better. But we're doing it with a good feeling in the room. It's an exciting time to be a Blue Bomber."

Randle left one of the best programs in the CFL when he moved from the Calgary Stampeders to the Bombers. But so far, the move has been all positive.

"This is such a great town to be a pro football player in. Everywhere you go, people want to talk football," said Randle. "Stepping out on that field, it's so loud. We want to be the next Seattle, where it's loud all the time and plays a factor in every game."

The last couple of years in Bomberland, players weren't afraid to voice their displeasure with the way they were being utilized.

Think Jonathan Hefney or Jovon Johnson and their jabs at management on Twitter or in the press about personnel moves and not liking being moved around from position to position. Randle said those days are over and players are happy for it.

"Mike O'Shea is in charge. He's our absolute leader," said Randle. "It's what you need and what you want. One voice determining the course of the team. Players want structure. They want to be shown the way. O'Shea does that."

Everything is rosy in Bomberland right now. Three wins against no losses out of the gate will do that, but it's going to get rough at some point. There will be adversity. But players like Randle will allow the Bombers to get through the dark days without self-destructing.

Randle's approach isn't going to change if the Bombers are 5-8 or 8-5. He's going to come to work and do his job. That kind of leadership is what steers a winner. The rest is just noise.

Yes, there's a new sheriff in town and O'Shea's wearing the badge. But maybe just as important are the riders like Randle in the posse.

They want to be rid of the bad guys.

And being good guys themselves doesn't hurt one bit.

gary.lawless@freepress.mb.ca Twitter: @garylawless

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition July 17, 2014 D3

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