The NY Jets already host one of the deeper defensive lines in football. But if they’re looking for a high-effort, physically-gifted interior defender with an unconventional path to the NFL, Charleston’s Kenny Randall could be an intriguing target late in the draft.
Randall’s journey to the NFL has certainly been an unordinary one. A native of Atlantic City, New Jersey, Randall originally committed to Temple but was declared academically ineligible so he chose to attend Milford Academy in New Berlin, New York.
After a year at Milford Academy, he enrolled at Charleston, but his academics suffered and he was dismissed. From there, Randall would spend two years out of football, even working at a Sam’s Club at one point, before returning to Charleston in 2018.
He’d quickly make up for lost time, however, earning second-team All-MEAC in his first year back before exploding with a monstrous senior season that saw him named first-team All-MEAC while leading his team in tackles for loss and sacks.
And he did all of this while primarily playing the nose tackle position.
Randall’s age (he’s already 25-years-old) and level of competition will certainly deter some teams, but his raw traits and infectious energy could make him a Day 3 selection despite his unorthodox football career.
I recently had the chance to speak with Randall about his incredible football journey, the NFL Draft process, and if the Jets have shown any interest.
Below is a transcription of our interview.
Interview with NY Jets draft prospect Kenny Randall
Justin Fried: “So you’ve had a, let’s call it unique, football journey. Certainly not a conventional one. For the future readers of this article, for those who don’t know who you are or your background, just give a real quick overview of your football career to this point. Some of the ups and downs you might have faced, where you played, all that stuff.”
Kenny Randall: “Sure. In my sophomore year of high school, I got into a car accident and four of my friends passed away. My junior year I committed to Temple, but I was 10-20 points away from getting my SAT scores to where they needed to be. So I went to Milford Academy which is in New Berlin, New York. From there, I committed to Charleston which was the only school to offer me out of Milford. Freshman year at Charleston I was dismissed from school for academics. I didn’t do time management and organization well, I let that get the best of me. For the next two years, I was kind of going back and forth trying to find a job, trying to live a normal life, be a normal person because I wasn’t in school. I ended up working at Sam’s Club doing rotisserie chicken for a couple of weeks. I realized that it wasn’t for me, it wasn’t the life I wanted to live. I reached out to my offensive line coach [at Charleston] and they ended up recruiting me back. I haven’t looked back since then.”
JF: “Yeah I don’t blame you, I don’t think working at Sam’s Club is for many people. Let’s go back to 2016 after you leave Charleston. You’re out of football, you’re back home and living a normal life. What’s your mindset at that time? What’s going through your head during that year and how did you keep those NFL dreams alive?”
KR: “It was hard, I’ll be honest. I went home and didn’t know what to tell my mom because she was my number one supporter. At the time, I didn’t tell her that I was dismissed, I just told her that I couldn’t return. I ended up having to tell her, of course. I never thought that I wasn’t going to go play football somewhere else. In the back of my mind, I always knew I’d play football. So I was just trying to find an opportunity where I could be seen and play football. That dream of going to the NFL never died, it was just a bigger obstacle trying to find a way to get there.”
JF: “You end up back at Charleston, put together two excellent seasons in 2018 and 2019, and then get the opportunity to work out at West Virginia’s pro day about a month ago now. What was that experience like for you?”
KR: “It was definitely something that I’ve been training for. I’ve been playing football since I was five or six. When I first got there I was definitely nervous because I had been trying to go D-1 for a while and now I’m standing there on this big campus. But I got there and they made me feel at home, they were all friendly. From the beginning, I was ready to go. As soon as I touched the ball I was ready.”
JF: “Do you have any NFL players that you model your game after or just like to watch on film?”
KR: “Yeah me and my coach watched countless hours of Geno Atkins.”
JF: “That’s a good one. Are there any teams that have shown a little more interest than others that you could potentially see yourself with come draft day?”
KR: “It would be the Jets. The Jets have been my number one [team] for three weeks now. They’ve been reaching out, making sure I’m good on everything, asking if I have any questions so definitely the Jets.”
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JF: “I love it! I was going to ask you about the Jets and if they reached out, I’m glad to hear it. How do you see yourself as a fit in that scheme under Robert Saleh? Now I know you played a lot of nose tackle at Charleston. I guess where do you see your best fit being in the NFL and where do you see yourself fitting into that Saleh defense?”
KR: “As you said, we ran the 3-front at Charleston so I’m more used to that. But I’ve been in a 4-front all my life, other than at Charleston. Over the past three months, I’ve been working with Bryan Cox and Brandon Jordan on improving my pass-rush. So I think that I’d be better off in the 4-front, it would just give me more opportunities to make plays and help the team out.”
JF: “For sure, and that’s something you really improved upon during your time at Charleston. I think you had something like 7.0 sacks in your senior season. How do you see your pass-rush arsenal developing from here?”
KR: “I’m actually surprised because I’ve been working a lot and I see improvement. Everyone that I send my videos to — like my coach or my agent — they’ll watch and be like ‘holy crap, you look way different than how you looked in January.’ So I definitely take pride in that.”
JF: “Now, I do have to ask you. Since you did grow up in the New Jersey area, did you grow up a Jets fan or are you loyal to another team?”
KR: “Nah the first NFL game that I watched on TV was a Colts game, I forget who they were playing. Peyton Manning threw a deep touchdown pass and I’ve been a Colts fan ever since. But that hometown hits different. I’m eight hours away from New Jersey now so if I could even get an hour away that would be way better.”
Special thanks to Kenny for taking the time to chat with us. The Jets could look to strengthen an already-strong interior defensive line in the draft.
And it seems as though Kenny Randall is a player they’re keeping a very close eye on.