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He spent his summer after college sleeping in front of a refrigerator. He moved into an apartment with an overweight Miami defensive tackle named Cortez Kennedy, cut off Kennedy's cake and nocturnal raids on the icebox the way he once had his own, drove him through three workouts a day and helped sculpt him into the No. 3 pick in the 1990 draft, the dawn of a dominating NFL career. That's when Randy began to discover that his survival tactics, his will, could be transferred to other boys groping toward manhood.
All those clinics and books that other young coaches scrambled for, Randy had no interest in them when the Cowboys released him a year later and his alma mater hired him as a grad assistant. He trusted only himself, and the radar that had taken him alone, among his mother's five children, through the combat zone.
When the flashbacks came, he'd start scribbling plays, spring from his seat and go jogging, sweat the damn things out, turn on a ball game or a movie—but, oh, be careful of movies! Out of the blue somebody's loved one could die, set that Adam's apple bobbing like a yo-yo. Anticipate! He'd up-tempo everything when tragedy befell the Hurricanes, change game film faster in defensive meetings, pepper players with questions and jokes so none of them would have lag time to think. He'd focus on the sound of his breath moving through his nostrils in bed at night so his crouched mind would uncoil and grant him five hours' sleep.
Who knew when the next 55-gallon drum might fall from the sky and land on him? At a football game! Just one lapse of his hypervigilant eyes as he walked off the field at West Virginia a decade ago, and a trash can full of bottles heaved by a peeved fan from the second tier smashed into his head, inflicting nerve damage to his neck that still requires an occasional injection of muscle relaxant.
Who knew at what hour, what instant, the compartments might collapse, the cross-contamination might ruin him? Like that evening after practice, a few days before a game in his junior year, when a cop pulled him over for speeding, took his driver's license back to the patrol car for an eternity, then returned and informed him that there was a bench warrant out for his arrest for drug trafficking, breaking and entering, and theft of machinery parts.
What? "I didn't do it!" Randy protested. "You've got to let me go. You don't know Coach Johnson. If I miss practice tomorrow, I'll get kicked off the team!"
A second police car arrived, the officer inside recognizing Randy as a Hurricane and permitting him to go if he promised to report to Miami Dade police to get to the bottom of this. Pee Wee! His other brother—his only surviving sibling, Clifford, four years older than Randy—he and his drug addiction were at the bottom of this.
Another nightmare had begun. The arrest charges and the trips to court kept coming. Look, Randy pleaded to the district attorney, it's my brother—he's stolen my identity. Couldn't they see the difference in their pictures? Randy was the one with the scar, the dent Pee Wee had put in his head swinging a curtain rod when they were kids. At last Randy received a blue document with all 10 of his fingerprints to verify his identity, one he must carry everywhere to this day and have renewed every three years ... and still the charges poured in. Seventeen in one bench warrant that arrived in the mail just as he was about to leave for his second and final training camp with the Cowboys, forcing him to arrive late, infuriating Johnson. And still, whenever Pee Wee got out of jail, Randy would take him shopping, deck him out in new clothes and shoes for a fresh start ... then retreat behind the firewall that had saved him, the one he'd teach his players to erect.
"I've got two choices," he says. "I can sit back and say everything's against me, I'm going in the tank. Or I can accept the hand that's been dealt me and move forward. I never think about why? or why me? I never second-guess it. I forget about what happened three seconds ago. People ask me what I did last night. I can't remember. They think I'm joking. Every second you think about the past is a second when you can't think about the future, about controlling what you can control. That gives other people an opportunity to control your life. You control your life. You have to control the world. You can never let it control you.