WICHITA, Kan. – Joseph Randle knew the questions were coming before the interview even started.
Randle, a dynamic junior running back from Wichita (Kan.) Southeast, has been asked about it time after time since he was in middle school.
After his older brother, John, was kicked off the Kansas football team in 2004 after a series of arrests, Joseph has spent the past four years being repeatedly interrogated on whether he would run into the same problems that befell John.
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"I'm already ready for it," Randle said. "I knew I was going to get questions about it since the sixth grade. It was happening to me in middle school.
"I was going to school and people were like, 'I heard this and that about John. Are you going to be a troublemaker, too?' "
But Randle, who will be one of the top running back prospects in the class of 2010, says he has learned a lot from his brother's mistakes and plans not to repeat them.
"I can tell you from experience there's nobody that can teach me stuff like my brother," Randle said. "I feel like there is no way on earth I could make the same mistakes he made because of how hard he's drilled it into my head that he made mistakes. He's told me, 'You will not do this. You will not do that.'
"I've seen what happened to him. If he hadn't of screwed up, he would have been a first-round pick. He missed out on all those millions for those few incidents."
Randle also said he thinks it's unfair for people to have preconceived notions about him because of his brother's mistakes.
"There is no way on earth I can do the same thing he did," Randle said. "You're just looking at John. But what about Larry and Jaleen? Larry, he's an industrial engineer with a degree in physics and engineering. And Jaleen, she's about to be in medical school. John was just one person out of my family that messed up.
"My daddy stresses staying on track. He's really strict in a good way. There is no way that I can mess up."
TALENT BLOOMING IN KANSAS
Wichita again is a popular destination for college recruiters looking for the top players in the Sunflower State for the class of 2010. Along with star running back Joseph Randle of Southeast, others such as quarterback Blake Bell of Bishop Carroll look to be quickly putting themselves on the national map.
Bell (6-6/200) impressed this summer at the Football University Top Gun Camp. He showed up along with five-star senior running back Bryce Brown and ended up being one of the best passers in the camp. He has carried that momentum over to the field with two dominating performances.
This past week in a 39-14 dismantling of Northwest, he was 27-of-37 for 317 yards and four touchdowns. He also ran for two touchdowns and was Carroll's leading rusher with 87 yards. He completed 14-of-16 second-half passes, with 12 consecutive completions at one point.
Carroll coach Alan Schuckman thinks Bell has a chance to be truly special.
"With him being 6-foot-6 and have the ability to move like he can – it's a great combination," Schuckman said. "He has a great understanding of the game. His dad played in the NFL for six years. You never understand the importance of having a tall quarterback that can really see things until you have one. His ability to move and see the field is incredible.
"I think he's only going to get better and better."
Another 2010 player to keep your eye on in Wichita is DeMarcus Robinson, a 6-0, 158-pounder from Northwest. He rushed for 1,097 yards as a junior and already has topped 150 yards in a game in 2008.
Outside the Wichita area, there are a few other names that have jumped out.
Manhattan's Derek Campbell rushed for more than 1,200 yards as a sophomore last season, and Shawnee Mission Bishop Miege receiver Justin McCay already has offers from Florida, Kansas, Kansas State, Missouri, Nebraska, Notre Dame and Wisconsin, among others. Riverton athlete Brad Hefley is another player to keep an eye on.
– JEREMY CRABTREE
Randle said he can't mess up because he has too much on the line.
"Every day I step out there and put my cleats and helmet on, it's not a game to me," he said. "It's $24,000 a year to go out of state to go to school. It's mainly about education. John got his education after he transferred to Southern Illinois. Larry got his education. Jaleen got her education. That's leaving a lot on me, but I've got to do it."
Coach Gary Guzman has no doubts he will.
"He's a pleasant kid," said Guzman, who has coached high school football in Wichita for more than 25 years. "I think he makes good choices. I think he's obviously learned from his brother's mistakes. He's very reliable. You know he's going to be at practice. You know he's going to be on time. As far as I know, he's getting it done in the classroom.
"I've never had any issues with him at all, and I don't think I'm ever going to have any, either."
Defensive coordinators sure do have questions about how to stop him on the field. As a sophomore, Randle rushed for 1,667 yards, earning honorable mention all-metro honors behind five-star running back Bryce Brown and Logan Dold, who is playing a lot as a true freshman at Kansas State.
Randle then made an immediate and major splash as a junior. On Southeast's first play from scrimmage in the season-opener two weeks ago, he caught a 78-yard pass for a touchdown. He then scored another touchdown in a 30-14 victory over Dodge City (Kan.) High. Last Friday, he had a 68-yard run in a 21-12 victory over Wichita South in conditions that were miserable because of heavy rain.
"I put him up there with some of the best I've seen in my time here in Wichita, and we've had some great ones, no question," Guzman said. "The numbers he put up last year were some of the best around here we've seen in a while – as a sophomore. They were incredible.
"He can catch the football. He can throw the football. We can put him in the shotgun and put him in the traditional sets. We can put him out as a return guy. He can basically do it all and has the right attitude about it."
Randle agrees it's important to have the right attitude and strives to be the best in everything he does.
"I do everything with all my heart both on and off the field," Randle said. "Schoolwork, I had close to a 3.5 GPA last year. I try to pride myself on doing the right thing and giving everything I've got in everything I do. Blocking. Kicking the ball. It doesn't matter. I'm going to try to be the best at it."
Where does this drive come from? From working construction with his father.
"It's the hardest that I've ever worked," he said. "We pulled out this driveway full of concrete with my dad. We were throwing all the bricks on the back of the truck, and it was like a few weeks worth of work that we did in a day or two. It was hot. It was tiring. That type of work will kick your butt."
His father uses the hard work to help set a great example for his children.
"My daddy was a sophomore in high school when he dropped out," Randle said. "He said he would never let his kids do this type of work for a living. He said he wanted us to go get an education and do anything but construction. He had a knee replacement, a knee scoped, knee surgery, elbow surgery and other things. All of that really sends a message to us about how important an education is.
"Football, that's fun. Once you go out there and do some real hard work, then little stuff like having to run extra or lifting weights is fun."
Randle hopes the recruiting process will be fun for him and not a lot of hard work. He already has a scholarship offer from Illinois and is getting plenty of attention from schools all over the country. While it's early in the process, he's already getting plenty of advice from his family about how to handle everything.
"They say to just chill, don't rush it," Randle said. "They've all told me to think it out all the way. My brother also says to pray a lot about it.
"K-State, KU, Nebraska, Stanford, Duke, Clemson, Notre Dame and LSU are sending me letters every day. But there are a few schools that haven't been sending me stuff that I really like, places like Oklahoma and Missouri. When I think of a dream school, Oklahoma comes to mind. So I feel like I have to have a great year this season to really be where I want to be. Maybe if everything works out, I'll get to go to where I want to go."
His coach says that's just Randle being modest.
"He's good enough to play for about anybody in the country," Guzman said. "He's that good. He's just a great all-around player and person. He's had to deal with a lot over the past few years with everybody trying to ask him and compare him to his brother. But he's handled everything with class, and we think he's truly special."