So, there I am at Summer camps. Lots of kids and I do mean lots. From all over, coast to coast, preps from the freshmen level to seniors to be, they were all there, all showing what they had and hoping to leave with a little more than they came in with.
For some, their goals might have been for something tangible, say a written offer from a school that each no doubt looked at, as a place they might want to be.
Such could be said for Robert Rands.
Rands is a product of Bellevue East. Smallish in size, standing roughly 5'7" and weighing little more (if more) than 165 lbs. To see him out on the field amidst teammates that tower above him, you might look quickly, dismiss him entirely and carry on about your day.
And, just when you did that, Rands just pops off a 65-yarder like he did in the playoffs against Omaha Westside last night.
That's what Rands is. He's the weapon you don't see coming, because you look at him, look away and before you know it, he's already moved on by.
He's a playmaker. "Offensively, there hasn't been any better." Bellevue East head coach, Jerry Lovell said of Rands being the best player he's coached in his career. "He's explosive."
That combustibility from the running back position served the "Chieftans" well early on in the quarter finals of this year's playoffs as Omaha Westside found out to their chagrin. A quick pitch to the left, Rands explodes to the corner and it's a race downfield 65 yards for the score.
A flashback to Summer camps, I remmber the 7 on 7 drills they were running and Rands was playing defense. He had intercepted a pass with a marvelous leap, something his 40" vertical manages quite effortlessly, Rands coming gracefully to the ground and before your eyes could even adjust to him regaining his feet, he was already moving up-field.
Shiftiness or elusiveness, that smallish size may not serve him well when getting hit, but his sheer escapability makes it darn hard for you to get that hit in the first place. It's like giving a football to a rabbit and then trying to get it back.
That's not easy with Rands as he's not prone to give up the ball once he's got it within his grasp. Ironically enough for Bellevue East in their loss to Omaha Westside, it was that very thing that Rands does so well that the team itself couldn't. 6 balls put on the ground, 2 lost and an interception that sealed the game for the Chieftans.
When it comes to Rands own ball security though, his coach commented to us after the game a stat that was telling indeed. "390 carries he's had , he's had five fumbles and lost three." Lovell said. "For a guy that size, that's pretty durable and pretty ball-efficient."
You can bet that was one of the primary reasons that Nebraska chose to offer Rands in writing. And, of course, not long after, Rands counted himself as one of now 16 current commits. It's a boon for Bellevue East of course as it's always nice to have one of your guys go to the "big school" down the road, but for Lovell, he's happier for Rands himself. "It's very nice for him and his parents." Lovell said. "Robert has been as exciting a player as Bellevue has ever seen and he's made some tremendous strides as a person."
"We are hoping that he can make that next leap once he gets into college."
Another irony in the use of the word "leap" as it was a dramatic one that at one point saved the games for the Chieftans last night. 4th and 14, less than 2 minutes in the game, Chieftans trailing by 7. This was ball-game, as they say, but Rands tried mightily to prolong the ultimate conclusion.
The quarterback fades back, ducks out of the pocket under pressure, steps up one, two steps and throws what seems like a prayer twenty-plus yards downfield. Waiting for that ball were three Omaha Westside defenders, two Bellevue players, one of course being Rands. Gazelle-like, Rands leaps into the air, grabs the ball from all else that were trying mightily to retain it themselves, bang, there ya go, first down for B.E.
Just because it wasn't enough in the end doesn't diminish the effort as someone so small proved to be one of the biggest players on the field.
And come next year, he'll be trading his purple in for a little red.
For Husker fans that are still coming down from the high that was the commit of Marlon Lucky, this commit may seem like just another name on the list. Sure, it's another in-stater that doubles the size of the in-state class thus far, but come on, who really is Robert Rands?
Rands doesn't have five stars by his name. Considering his size and the projected situational role he will play in college, that's probably not going to change. What Rands is though, is a very special player once he gets his hands on the ball.
Just when you think he's there, he's not. When you think you have him in your grasp, that small and slippery frame eludes you and you simply can't catch up. To be honest, other than size and the durability to be an every down kind of player in division 1-A, Rands really does have it all.
He'll be the guy back there on punt returns that rather than sigh before the opponent has even punted the ball, you would instead breath in, wondering what might happen next. Rands is that kind of player, so just because you don't see the stars by his name and everyone doesn't talk about him in an almost reverent tone, let's not assume that the lists and their rankings have all of a sudden dictated who's good and who isn't.
It's ok though. Go ahead and underestimate Robert Rands. He's probably used to it to a degree. Just one thing. After you do, make sure to smile nicely after he's walking back from his trip to the end zone.
This kid can play.