Kheeston Randall squats down in a 3-point stance, ready to pounce on Nebraska’s offensive linemen. As he stares down the Huskers with a fire in his eyes, he turns to fellow defensive tackle, sophomore Alex Okafor, and cracks a joke before the first snap.
Bringing a sense of humor to serious situations allows Randall to maintain a balance between the fierceness and fun of football; a balance that he deems necessary to play at the demanding level that is the “Texas standard.”
On that snap, Okafor recalled that he was jittery and a little nervous because the game had so many implications. But Randall’s relaxed composure put him at ease.
“It was a big situation, huge. The crowd was going crazy,” Okafor said. “Then Kheeston was just like, ‘These Nebraska fans are loud.’ And it’s just something small like that that will get me laughing.”
Randall’s humor, which consists of him making pithy comments or humming random melodies, helps the Longhorns defense as a whole stay calm on the big stage.
“Kheeston is a funny guy,” Okafor said. “We’ll be in the middle of the game and he’ll crack a joke and it makes me laugh and mellows me out throughout the game. He keeps me levelheaded.”
More than making his teammates laugh, Randall likes to sing. He even sarcastically said that after his football career is over, he’d like to take voice lessons and become a famous singer.
His love for singing is most apparent in post-game press conferences. After both the Rice and Nebraska games, Randall plopped down in front of the microphone and before any journalist could ask him a question, he started in on a hip-hop song.
“I got a pretty nice voice,” Randall said as a giant grin stretched across his face. “My teammates love to hear me sing.”
Actually, his teammates don’t love to hear him sing.
“Don’t let him fool you,” Okafor said. “I’m not saying he’s bad, but I’m pretty sure he’s not as good as he’s telling you he is.”
The defensive line hears Randall sing the most, but the secondary players have had the pleasure, too.
“I wouldn’t suggest him being on American Idol or anything,” junior cornerback Aaron Williams joked. “He’s not as good as he thinks he is … don’t tell him I said that.”
When asked about the bad grades his teammates give his voice, Randall just scoffs and says that they’re jealous.
“Everybody thinks they can sing, but I’m the best,” Randall said. “Gotta be the best at everything.”
Though Randall may or may not be as good of a singer as he leads one to believe, he feels that if he didn’t allow his fun-loving personality to seep into his football life, he wouldn’t be as good of a player.
“It helps me stay balanced in tough situations,” he said. “Whether we’re up by 10 or down by 10, I have to stay relaxed and continue doing my job, and singing helps with that sometimes.”
It was evident last weekend in Nebraska that the system that Randall has works, as defensive coordinator Will Muschamp awarded Randall with the “defensive belt” — a reward for the most productive defensive lineman — after the game because of his performance.
“Kheeston had five ‘twofers’ and ate two blocks, and that’s my favorite stat other than a sack or a caused fumble or recover for an inside player,” Muschamp said. “We put a very high stock on [those stats] for our defensive line, especially for inside players. When you’re in those numbers, you’re doing a very nice job. You’re being very disruptive.”
A “twofer” is when a defensive lineman takes on a double team, allowing another defensive linemen to roam free and attack the quarterback or running back depending on the play.
Muschamp explained that one of the defensive schemes heading into Nebraska was to force the offense to go east-west rather than north-south by cutting off all routes up the middle. To do that, the defensive line was down in a three-point stance and played thicker on blockers. The Longhorns were very successful with that gameplan, as they held the Huskers to just 125 rushing yards and 77 passing yards.
“Kheeston controlled the middle of our defense [on Saturday],” Muschamp said. “In order to have executed [that game plan], you better have a good nose guard and he better play well, and Kheeston certainly did that.”
As a thundering, 6-foot-5, 295-pound lineman, Randall is a major force for the Longhorns. Though he enjoys a song and a joke here and there, any opponent would be foolish to think that Randall’s sense of humor distracts him from inflicting crushing blows upon any player trying to come through the middle of the Texas defense.