After failing to hear his name called in the 2019 NFL Draft, Temple Owls safety Delvon Randall will be an absolute steal as an UDFA.
But that’s okay; Randall is used to overcoming adversity.
Randall, a Pittsburgh area native, was a three-year starter in the defensive secondary and made the trek down North Broad every home game of his four-year career.
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His selection boiled down to a handful of mid-major Division 1 programs and Randall opted to remain in-state, joining head coach Matt Rhule in his quest to put Temple Football on the national radar. Prior to Rhule’s arrival, Temple was often the forgotten football program in the state. Today, Temple Football is synonymous with the best “Group of Five” programs, earning legitimate conversation and consideration as a candidate to join a Power Five conference, thanks to the groundwork Rhule set before heading to Waco for the Baylor head coaching job.
On the gridiron, Randall prospered from a quiet freshman with minimal impact into a coveted senior leader with a knack for locating the football. Temple Tuff from head to toe, Randall embraces and goes out of his way to seek out contact. Not afraid to drop his shoulder (legally) into the ballhandler’s chest, Randall packs a powerful punch with his 210-pound frame, built of pure muscle. When packed against the line of scrimmage, he can sniff out and wrap up running backs of all shapes and sizes.
In his Sophomore and Junior campaigns, Randall made 6 and 6.5 tackles for loss, displaying his ability to anticipate and explode through the offensive line to make a play. His tackling totals increased with each season, capping off his time at Temple with a career-high 85 tackles in his senior season.
While Randall was a dominant physical force, he made a name for himself -on the field and in the record books- with his ability to track down the football and create turnovers. Acting as the center-fielder of the defense, the Owls’ strong safety can read the quarterback’s eyes and react, beating the receiver to the landing zone.
He surged to the surface as the starting strong safety his Sophomore season with four interceptions, including picks at Penn State and USF. He tacked on two fumble recoveries and finished third in the American Athletic Conference (AAC) with six takeaways, leading the Owls to a win over Navy and their first Conference Championship in nearly half a century.
Randall experienced a true breakout season in 2017, emerging as a veteran leader in the battle-tested Temple program. On a streak where he had an interception in three straight games, Randall became the first player to accomplish that feat since 2001. His four interceptions on the season led the team, and he finished second on the team in tackles, leading all defensive backs in that category. Randall earned First-Team All-AAC honors en route to Temple’s first bowl win in six years over Florida International at the Gasparilla Bowl.
Following a historic junior campaign, Randall was poised to close out his career as an Owl great, engraving his name alongside the best to stroll through North Broad. The team failed to storm out of the starting gate, dropping their first two contests at home to inferior opponents despite Randall’s best efforts: inner-city FCS rival Villanova on opening day and MAC East division champion Buffalo the following weekend. The team bounced back with a monster victory in College Park against the Maryland Terrapins, though Randall was a non-factor while battling injuries.
In a heart-breaking loss at Boston College, the senior safety recorded nine tackles in a return to elite form. The Owls broke out in the following weeks, winning seven of their last eight contests. The run included crucial victories over conference foes Cincinnati, Houston, and South Florida. Randall went on another run of his own, with the second three-game interception streak in as many seasons, including an epic Odell Beckham-style one-handed grab at home against USF and a primetime performance in a shootout at UCF on national television.
Head coach Geoff Collins decision to accept the same position at Georgia Tech, returning home to his alma mater before the Owls’ date in the Independence Bowl against the Duke Blue Devils and the heir to Eli Manning in New York, put a damper on the team’s late-season success. Temple laid an egg in Shreveport but not before Randall slapped an exclamation point to the end of his four-year career, swiping his fourth interception of the season and taking it back 52 yards for a pick-six.
Randall departed Temple with a lengthy resume, solidifying himself as one of the greats in Temple’s defensive secondary. A two-time first-team All-AAC selection, the ball-hawking safety etched his name in the school record books, ranked fifth in career interceptions. Those 12 picks in his days sporting the cherry and white were the third-most in AAC history.
While he was a crucial component to the Owls’ success on the field, Randall surfaced as a strong presence of leadership on the defensive side of the ball in his final two seasons. Randall proved the ultimate level of “#TempleTUFF”, earning the right to bear a single-digit number on his jersey in a timeless Temple Football tradition – the ultimate badge of honor awarded to the nine toughest players in the program.
Serving as a defensive leader while managing an Owls’ secondary that led the AAC in interceptions per game, the seasoned upperclassman transformed his single-digit demeanor into a culture of sheer toughness inside the locker room. He drove the underclassmen to mirror his “fear nothing” mentality with a ferocious work-ethic on the practice field and in the weight room. Randall’s leadership didn’t stop when the clock hit 0:00 in the fourth quarter. He acted as a mentor to the younger players on and off the field, teaching valuable life lessons and simply being there for support as someone to talk with about anything, football related or not.
The defensive leader credits Temple legends crucial to the team’s historic season in 2015 when Randall was one of three freshmen to see significant playing time- taking down Penn State and going shot-for-shot with Notre Dame on Saturday Night primetime with College Gameday in the city- as the source of leadership qualities he now possesses, acquired when they took the young safety under their wings. Names like All-American and Chuck Bednarik Award winner, Tyler Matakevich, and quarterback Phillip “P.J.” Walker. True leaders priming a young star, handing over the reins to a worthy individual.
An individual who helped lead a historic Temple defense to an era of national dominance. A team that led the nation in touchdowns allowed (seven), ranked third in takeaways (28) and fumble recoveries (13), fifth in opponent passing efficiency (103.06), seventh in yards per play (4.49) and eighth in passing yards per game (166.3) before their bowl game in Louisiana.
Sure, Randall didn’t bear the entire weight of the defense solely on his shoulders: cornerback Rock Ya-Sin (selected by the Indianapolis Colts in the second round of this year’s draft) and defensive tackle Michael Dogbe (the Arizona Cardinals seventh-round selection in Nashville) were just two more NFL-caliber pieces of Temple’s defensively dominant puzzle.
And though he was not selected on draft day, there are reasons to keep an eye on Randall through offseason workouts. The defense Coach Collins ran with the Owls’ was a complex NFL scheme and the safety’s ability to manage the complicated playbook showcased a high-level of football IQ, calling all the shots and making all the checks in the secondary.
Another factor working in Randall’s favor: Temple defensive backs thrive in the NFL. Oakland’s Tahir Whitehead, Baltimore’s Tavon Young, and Indianapolis’ Nate Hairston are all vital components to their team’s secondary. Young is a key member of the Ravens’ secondary on a defense ranked second in the league last season. Hairston will be joined by Ya-Sin on the Colts’ No. 10 ranked defense in the league. Whitehead is a rare bright spot on a dark, gloomy Raiders roster. Temple is to secondary what Penn State once was as “Linebacker U”, and Randall looks to add to the legacy in the same nest where he established his career.
One notable concern for Randall is his lack of experience and quickness in man coverage, but in the right scheme that shouldn’t be an issue.
Whether Randall has a legitimate chance to make a 53 man roster remains to be seen, but should he earn the opportunity to suit up Week 1, he will embark on a quest, fueled by the chip on his shoulder, to become an undrafted free-agent turned NFL success story.