A very happy-go-lucky kid, Raynard Randolph and his family hit a major hurdle two years ago when his father suffered a stroke, paralyzing him from the legs down. His mother, who drives a Metro train had to start working even harder, and Randolph and his three brothers, two of which are older, were asked to chip in more around the house.
The stroke happened two weeks before Gwynn Park High started two-a-day practices Randolph's freshman year. Randolph was poised to have a great high school football career regardless, but he quickly got a lot of extra family incentive.
Reality however hasn't gotten Randolph too down, and the 6-foot-2, 300-pound standout now holds seven scholarship offers from the likes of Georgia, Tennessee, West Virginia, Pittsburgh, Rutgers, Syracuse and Connecticut, while also receiving heavy interest from Notre Dame and several other programs.
"He's really strong and really smart, which is the most important thing," Gwynn Park head coach Danny Hayes said. The two go back to when Randolph was in kindergarten, and Hayes has pitched in a ton to help the family. "He's a very humble kid when you talk to him because he doesn't have a lot, and doesn't need a lot to make him happy.
"He's struggled all his life with family situations, but you'll never know it. He is a determined kid, and he's more determined than ever. He's the kind of guy anyone will want on their team. He's never down, one of those guys you always want to be around."
The whole family makes it to Randolph's games to see him dominate in the trenches both sides of the ball. Football doesn't only provide Randolph with opportunities, but in his eyes, it does for his closest kin as well. A degree or a chance to play in the league, one of the two is going to help.
The recruiting process has been a very exciting time around the house, and with time and interest picking up from schools like Penn State and North Carolina State, it's going to keep getting better and better.
One thing Randolph, who has a 2.8 GPA, knows for sure is, that he is going to college for free, and will be the first one in his immediate family to do so.
"It gave me a lot more drive to work hard and don't take walking for granted," Randolph said of his father's stroke.
"This attention is a blessing. My family is really excited. I can show them that a little situation wont stop me from what I do. I'm real focused on what I'm doing right now and that's a good thing."
Notre Dame assistant coach Ron Powlus was by the school just before signing day, and told Randolph that the staff would be keeping in touch. Since then, Hayes said another coach has called to say that the Irish are very interested.
Randolph doesn't know much about Notre Dame, and thus far has only started learning about a few other programs. In fact, the only campus he has ever seen in person is Syracuse. He's been unable to take up any schools on their invitations for games, because Gwynn Park and most of the teams on its schedule play on Saturday because they have no lights.
"Notre Dame has always been that top-notch program besides last year, they've always been a top-notch program in my eyes," Randolph explained. "I've always seen them on TV, but I've never got inside Notre Dame and stuff like that.
"I've done my research on Rutgers, West Virginia, Tennessee and Syracuse. I'm doing the research on the other schools that have offered me right now.
Right now my top three is West Virginia, Georgia and Tennessee. That could most definitely change, but those are the three showing me the most love right now."
Notre Dame invited Randolph to it's junior day last month but he couldn't make it. If the Irish start showing even more attention, Randolph said he will add them to the list of school's to inquire about as well.
With the exception of Penn State, every program is recruiting Randolph as a defensive tackle. He can bench press 350 pounds, squat 460 pounds, and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.62 seconds.
"We can go into a 40 front, or we can go into a 30 front," Randolph said of his team, and of his versatility along the line. "Schools like how strong I am and how explosive I am off the line of scrimmage. A lot of coaches say they could use that on their defensive line."
"He clogs the hole," Hayes stated. "He's always going to get double teamed because of his strength, but he knows ways of getting into the backfield. On the offensive side, we run behind him a lot. He's going to give you that extra burst to make sure he's going to give you that score."
Randolph isn't going to wait a long time before making a decision.
"I'll probably make it going into next season or early after," he said. "I'm not going to make it after the season. I'm looking for just a good education program, stuff like that, a good environment."
So he can provide a better one for his family.