Brian Randolph grabbed a bowling ball and stared down the lane with an intense look that would melt steel and cause panic in the hearts of most men. With hundreds of spectators looking on at the pressure-packed scene mere feet away, Randolph ran three steps forward before lunging himself headfirst down the lane like a baseball player sliding to beat the throw at first, releasing the ball with a thunderous boom before the loud crack of nine pins falling filled the Splitsville air.
"I actually knew Brian did that for a while," teammate Kyler Kerbyson said with a smile. "We were actually in a bowling class together freshman year. He's been doing that for a while. He did it in class and I'm pretty sure he got an A, so it worked out. He is a pretty good bowler with that technique. He bowls straight and gets a few spares, sometimes a strike."
Randolph's unique bowling technique couldn't help Tennessee Monday, when the Vols lost by 100 pins to Northwestern in a bowling challenge at the Tampa Splitsville in the first of many Outback Bowl events held leading up to the game Jan. 1. But it does aptly personify the redshirt senior's personality.
Randolph's polished wit can be overt at times, but you'll still have to pay attention to catch it. The Marietta, Georgia, native likes to be out of the box inside the locker room. He also has no problem telling you, with gobs of straight-faced sarcasm, how he can dominate any game you put in front of him.
Take golf, for instance.
"I can't show off too much. My skills are too great to be showing off that much," Randolph quipped. "I try to limit my golfing. I don't want people to catch on. I'm the next Tiger Woods."
"I'm the best bowler on the team. I've got the technique no one knows about"
How about volleyball?
"I'm not a volleyball type of guy, but I bet I'd be good at it, though, if I tried it."
Thankfully for Tennessee, Randolph chose football to pursue, and he's helped turn the Vols back into an SEC East contender after nearly a decade of mediocrity. Despite the safety's running jokes and polished wit, Randolph is actually the calming presence between the hashmarks as Tennessee's last line of defense in the back end.
"Randolph's a crazy dude," linebacker Jalen Reeves-Maybin said. "I remember when I came in my freshman year, one of the first things he told me was the longer you stay here, the crazier you're going to get. I can tell that happened to him. He got crazier ever year. He's just a wild personality, but on the field he's more calm actually. He gets everybody settled down. He's real smart. I guess he just decides to let loose sometimes."
Defensive coordinator John Jancek had much of the same to say when speaking about his long-haired playmaking star who's even devised his own celebratory dance move after he makes a big play.
"He's got energy. I like it. I like guys that have energy," Jancek said. "If they want to dance, he's got his little 'Randy Boy' dance that he does, I'm good with it. Just keep doing what you're doing, and I think part of our culture and what we've been able to accomplish on defense is that everyone has a mutual respect for each other. Randy has a unique personality."
The flair is evident upon first glance.
Randolph's hair, pulled up in dreads that shoot out from both the front and the back of his head, resembles the Canadien singer and songwriter The Weeknd. But the hair is just a minor part of what makes Brian Randolph himself.
His comedic relief is matched only by his intelligence, one of the other traits that truly defines who he is. When the defensive backs are given tests to study for during the week, the younger guys flock to Randolph for help.
"He's a really relaxed and funny guy," Kerbyson said. "He keeps everybody up-tempo, but he's actually very, very smart. Not many people realize that, but Brian's a 4.0 student almost every semester. That guy wouldn't even have to study for a test and he'd get in the 90s. He's a very smart individual and that helps him in the back end. That helps him coach the younger guys too and let them know what they need to do."
The veteran's presence in the locker room makes working toward this year's Outback Bowl that much easier due to his exuding both calm confidence with a workmanlike approach to the trip.
It also helps that he's good at the whole football thing. Randolph has recorded 67 total tackles on the season, good for second on the team, to go along with three pass breakups and an interception.
"Experience is always the best teacher," Randolph said. "We got a little experience, so we know what to expect this year. We know how to practice. We know what the schedule's like, so I feel like the second year is going to be better for us."
There won't be any more bowling on this trip, but Brian Randolph won't stop using the interesting technique he first started as a kid when attempting to bowl a strike to earn a free meal at his hometown bowling alley.
How could he? It's as much a part of him as his dry wit and composed presence as the team's veteran safety. Randolph's last game as a Tennessee player will be in the Outback Bowl, when he'll trade in his orange Tennessee uniform for something else. What that will be is still undecided.
"If I don't be a professional golfer after football, I think I'm going to try bowling," he deadpanned.
With the way things have worked out so far for Brian Randolph, that may not be a bad idea.