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Randle El wants to make noise
The temperature is approaching 100 degrees at Redskin Park, but Antwaan Randle El nevertheless has assigned himself an arduous task to complete before he hits the field for practice.
The man dubbed "Mr. P.A." and "The Loudspeaker" by a teammate is standing in the press room, where he is trying -- at high volume -- to motivate reporters to spend the next two hours in the heat watching the Redskins work out.
"That's me every day," Randle El said. "You've got to enjoy yourself every day. I was always loud. My daddy is loud."
Loud and -- despite the heat -- happy to be with the Washington Redskins.
Randle El was viewed as more of a luxury than a focal point for the offense in four years as a wide receiver with the Pittsburgh Steelers. Despite his many gifts as an athlete, he had yet to develop into a truly feared receiver.
Randle El was a good enough center fielder to be drafted out of high school by his hometown Chicago Cubs. He was skilled enough in basketball to play a year for taskmaster Bobby Knight at Indiana. He was the first player in Division I football history to total 6,000 yards passing and 3,000 yards rushing. He was the first to pass for 40 touchdowns and score 40.
He also was the player who scared the Redskins to death as a punt returner in 2004 and the player who clinched victory for the Steelers in the Super Bowl six months ago with a touchdown pass to Hines Ward.
Still, Randle El has not become a dominant receiver.
He has averaged 40.5 receptions a season, 12.4 yards a catch and has just seven touchdown receptions.
So even though The Loudspeaker is slated to be only the Redskins' No.3 receiver, Randle El expects to make the loudest noise of his career this season now that he is in a more wide-open offense.
"I can't say I'm disappointed in my touchdowns or anything else because I haven't had the opportunities," he said. "When I've had the opportunities, I've made the plays. It takes time to be seen as a top receiver. I really haven't had that opportunity playing for such a lopsided run-based team. ... Leaving Pittsburgh, I didn't want just to play more. I also wanted to play in a system where they threw the ball more often."
Randle El also would like to play in a system that gets him the ball more often.
"I want to be on the field for every play," he said. "I want to go to the Pro Bowl as a wide receiver. I haven't had the impact I wanted to yet. But when it happens, you'll see."
Randle El had a strict upbringing -- he had a curfew at sunset and wasn't allowed to leave his block without an adult -- but he saw plenty of heartbreak in his inner-city neighborhood in Riverdale, Ill.
"A lot of guys I knew who could've made it out, didn't," said Randle El, whose older brother, Curtis, was a cornerback at Indiana, and whose younger brother, Marcus, is a receiver at Wisconsin. "Some got in trouble before they realized that wasn't the way to go.
"I lost friends, people I knew. Byron, who was three years older than me, got shot right across the street when I was 12. He was a guy we looked up to. We heard the shots and then we saw him getting carted to the ambulance. It made me realize how important it was what my mom and dad were doing for us."
Randle El's parents told him that he wasn't going to play pro baseball until he went to college first. Then he planned to attend Division I-AA Ohio University for football until Indiana changed coaches and Cam Cameron, now the offensive coordinator of the San Diego Chargers, agreed to give him a shot at playing quarterback.
Five years later, Randle El became the 62nd player chosen in the NFL Draft, and he now has a Super Bowl ring and a seven-year, $31million contract. But fame and fortune haven't prompted him to drop that grudge he carries.
Asked to name his favorite player in Redskins history, Randle El didn't pick a great receiver like Art Monk or Gary Clark. He chose Doug Williams, the first black quarterback to play in -- and win -- the Super Bowl.
"A lot of people didn't think he could do it," Randle El said. "That's kinda my whole upbringing. I was always told I was too short, I couldn't play quarterback, I wouldn't even be drafted. I had switch to receiver."
The Redskins are excited about what Randle El could do for them as a receiver even if he's not a starter.
"Put him in the open field and get him the ball and it's like, 'Good night.' You can't keep up with him," said Brandon Lloyd, another receiver signed in the offseason.
Said coach Joe Gibbs after watching Randle El shake and bake past defenders during practice: "Randle El's extremely quick when he gets the ball in his hands. He can also run with the football. He can throw it. He's a great punt returner, and that could help our team immensely."
And Randle El is not unhappy that he rarely gets to throw the ball anymore.
"My first two years in Pittsburgh I still thought about playing quarterback a lot, but after that I really started focusing on receiver," Randle El said. "I really enjoy being a receiver now. The most fun is throwing a big block and springing a guy. Last year I hit Pat Williams, that big 300-pound D-tackle from Minnesota, knocked him out and sprang Ben [Roethlisberger] for the score."
On and off the field, Randle El never stops -- and never stops having fun.
"Anybody who doesn't like Randle El, there's something wrong with them," Gibbs said. "He's as excited about football as anybody I've been around."
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