Everett Herald: Former Royal footballer learning to succeed
Aug. 19, 2008
LYNNWOOD, Wash. -
By Larry Henry, Special to The (Everett) Herald
Just once he would like to have known how it felt to walk off the field a winner.
Just once he would like to have had something to celebrate.
But as a varsity football player at Lynnwood High School, Randall Eldridge never got to experience that feeling of exhilaration.
"Not once," he said, "in three years."
No wins. Not even a tie.
It wasn't for a lack of effort -- or talent -- on his part.
Eldridge seldom came off the field. And when he did, he wanted to get right back in the game.
"I gave my all in every game," he said.
His "all" was pretty darn good. He won the Royals' best blocker award as a sophomore, then was the team's Offensive Most Valuable Player his junior and senior years. As a senior, he also was first team all-Western Conference South Division as a kick returner and second team as a running back and defensive back.
All this in addition to being selected as the school's Athlete of the Year as a senior.
Surely, he would have been welcomed on other area teams. In fact, a friend from Lincoln High in Tacoma tried to talk him into transferring there. Eldridge wouldn't be swayed. Despite the non-ending string of losses, he remained steadfast in his loyalty to the Royals. And he never lost faith in his teammates.
Going into each game, he would think "this week we're going to win."
Then they would lose.
A week later, "we're going to win."
Same old story.
"I had the biggest faith in the world," he said.
He got that from his mother, Elaine. "My mom," he said, "is the most positive woman in the world."
And finally, all of that positive energy was rewarded -- but not in high school.
Three years ago, as a freshman at Chabot Community College in Hayward, Calif., Randall Elridge walked off the field a winner -- six times, as a matter of fact.
Not only did he play on a winning team, the Gladiators posting a 6-4 record, but he was a starting running back, rushing for 575 yards and better than five yards a carry.
Things would only get better.
The next year, 2006, he was Offensive Most Valuable Player in the Golden Gate Conference, rushing for a league-leading 1,277 yards and 12 touchdowns. He also had 154 yards receiving as the Gladiators again went 6-4.
Pretty impressive for a kid who basically walked on at Chabot and didn't arrive there with a whole lot of self-esteem.
That happens when you don't get recruited out of high school, and perhaps the reason he didn't get recruited was that his performance got buried beneath all those losses.
Even he had questions about his ability to play at the next level. And he would sometimes ask himself, "Am I any good?"
He probably knew he was, but he had to have it validated.
As a second-team Junior College All-American his sophomore year, he had his answer.
"I knew I could play in another state known for football," he said. "It was a real ego boost."
This fall, he has an opportunity to show what he can do in his home state. Entering fall camp at Western Washington University, he is the Vikings' No.1 running back.
"At the end of spring (practice), he was our best back," said head coach Robin Ross. "He runs with power, has good moves, and can catch the ball. He did a nice job."
Eldridge, a 5-foot-10, 205-pounder, can run effectively both inside and outside. "He's probably better inside because he's so strong," said Gladiator coach Danny Calcagno. "His best attribute is his balance -- he's hard to bring down. It takes four and five guys."
That would indicate good leg power, which his mother believes he began to develop as a toddler. "He walked on his toes his first three years," she said.
Eldridge has watched films of Earl Campbell, Jim Brown and Bo Jackson, guys who lowered their shoulders and ran over people. That's what he tries to do. "I just stick my head in there and keep moving," he said.
He also keeps the pile moving, as the Vikings head coach observed in the spring. "You very seldom see him knocked backwards," Ross said. "The good runners fall forward."
Eldridge transferred to Western last September after beginning fall camp with Sam Houston State University in Texas, an NCAA Division I-AA school. He left there after being switched to fullback. "I'm not a fullback," he said. "It wasn't the right fit for me."
Western should be a good fit -- for him as well as for his mother. She can come watch his games and not have to get on the Internet to find out how her son is doing. "He never tells me," she said. "I'll ask him, 'How was the game?' and he'll say, 'all right.' 'How did you do?' 'All right.'"
In other words, he doesn't like to talk about himself.
"He's very focused on his football," his mother said, "and has been since he was in grade school."
She would like to see him focus a little more on his studies. "He does what he has to do to get by," she said.
He admits he was "real lazy" in high school and "just wanted to pass."
Football is another matter. He wants to show that he can "play this game better than anybody on the field," and along those lines, he has a goal of playing professionally, be it in the AFL, the CFL or the NFL.
"I'd like to take it as far as I can," he said. "It just takes hard work."
He has worked hard all summer, running sprints and lifting weights five days a week.
Where? At his old high school, where else?
He's still a loyal Royal.
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