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Randle El throws, runs, even punts for Hoosiers

November 8, 2001
Indiana quaterback Antwaan Randle EL (11) attempts to be elude Michigan’s Ian Gold (20) after a 5-yard gain late in the fourth quater on Oct. 24 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor

The last time Indiana quarterback Antwaan Randle El visited East Lansing, he lost consciousness and forgot who and where he was.

“I was hit hard and put facedown right into the turf,” Randle El said of the concussion he received in the fourth quarter of MSU’s 38-31 overtime win in 1998. “I had no idea what was going on. It was tough to be on the sidelines and see us lose.”

Three years and 71 touchdowns later - 36 passing and 35 rushing - Randle El hasn’t had any more problems finding himself or his way around a football field.

As a record-setting quarterback/wide receiver/punter/whatever the team needs, Randle El is on pace to finish in the top 10 on the Big Ten’s career rushing and passing list.

No matter what tasks are thrown his way, Randle El said he is just happy playing the game he loves - especially at quarterback when the game is on the line.

“I’m a baller, regardless of what position I play on the field,” said Randle El, who has 12 pages dedicated to him in the Hoosiers’ 2001 media guide. “Being a quarterback is my love, it’s where my heart is. It’s just always excited me to run offense and try to get our guys up and down the field. There’s just nothing like it.”

But his arm isn’t the only weapon that frustrates opposing defenders, Indiana running back Levron Williams said.

As a part of the Big Ten’s best running offense, Randle El has gained 565 of the team’s 1,758 total rushing yards in seven games.

“Antwaan brings a lot of energy to the team and we all look to him to give us a boost when we need it,” Williams said. “I’m more of a north and south kind of guy (running style). He has more deceptive, side-to-side moves. He’s just a jitterbug out there.”

As a former three-sport athlete who played basketball and baseball in high school and played for former Indiana basketball head coach Bobby Knight for two seasons, Randle El has found merit in all of his experiences.

“The knowledge you get out of playing different sports is second to none,” he said. “It’s really helped me learn how to prepare for games and keep my body in good shape.”

And Randle El said his experiences with Knight gave him confidence in becoming a leader in the huddle on the football field.

“Playing for coach Knight really helped because he’s a guy that is real big on taking responsibility, especially when you’re on a team,” Randle El said. “If you want to make sure that something is going the way you want it, you have to take the initiative yourself. That’s something I learned from him. It really relates with the mindset you have to have as a quarterback.”

In MSU’s last meeting against Randle El, he surprised tacklers by rushing for 124 yards on 21 carries and a touchdown - including a 43-yard option run right through the heart of the Spartan defense.

It’s that kind of expressiveness that will have to be contained by MSU’s defense, especially since it lost the services of senior defensive tackle Josh Shaw to a season-ending knee injury last weekend.

“I’ve seen some film on the guy, and he’s made some guys look really silly out there,” sophomore linebacker Mike Labinjo said. “He’s just a really good athlete who played so many different kinds of sports. We as a defense, have a lot of respect for him, and we have to give it our best shot to try and contain him and not let him run over us.”

It will take a disciplined and committed effort throughout the game to slow Randle El down, especially since he’s a deadly scrambler out of the pocket.

And the Spartans will have to be ready every role Randle El might have Saturday, defensive coordinator Bill Miller said.

“He’s a great athlete and can hurt you a lot of different ways,” Miller said. “He can make a mistake and hurt you.”

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