On Tuesday, Virginia Football lost an all-time great as former wide receiver and head coach Sonny Randle passed away. Randle had been in declining health for a period of time and was living in a hospice facility at the time of his death. He was 81.
Though current fans are likely more familiar with Randle’s work as a TV analyst and sport radio talk show host, Randle was standout football player for the Hoos and also served as the Virginia Cavaliers’ head football coach for three years. Amazingly, Randle also ran track for the Hoos and was on the basketball team as a freshman, though it appears he never entered a game.
Randle attended Fork Union Military Academy from grade school through high school. He was a track star and only played football his senior year, which was cut short by an injury. Not surprisingly, he was not recruited for football, and instead walked on as a 6’0”, 189 WR (this was not considered small at the time). Randle did not play as a freshman, but he earned a scholarship by his sophomore year. Here are his career numbers as a Wahoo.
Sonny Randle Career Stats
Randle also rushed for 188 yards on 66 carries in his career and led the nation in kickoff returns as a senior, with 506 return yards. When looking at those numbers, keep in mind that it was a different era of college football. In Randle’s senior year, 1958, the NCAA leader in passing yards had just 1397 yards. Randle’s 642 yards were second in the nation.
Randle currently ranks 48th all-time in receptions and 42nd in receiving yards in the Virginia annals. Nobody above him played in the same era, and most of the players above him began their careers in the 1980s or later.
Randle was drafted in the 19th round (218th overall) of the 1958 NFL Draft by the Chicago Cardinals. He played for the Cardinals for eight seasons (they moved to St Louis in 1960), and made the Pro Bowl four times. He was named first-team All-Pro in 1960 when he led the NFL with 15 TD receptions. He was second with 62 receptions and fourth with 893 yards. He broke the 1000 yard mark twice, in 1962 and 1963 in an era where such a mark was a great accomplishment.
As mentioned, Randle also ran track at Virginia, running the 100-yard dash in 9.6 seconds. At the time, 100 yards was the standard distance for track in the US. Very few meets still include that run. His 100 yard time extrapolates to roughly 10.4 seconds in the 100 meters. That would equal the UVA team record in the event. Randle also sprinted for the US at the Olympic trials, though never made the National team.
Following his retirement from the NFL in 1969, Randle went into coaching. He began as an assistant coach at ECU in 1970 and was named head coach in 1971. In 3 years at ECU, he went 22-10 and won two Southern Conference championships. He was then named head coach at Virginia, where he lasted just 2 years and won just 5 games (losing 17). Randle is one of just two former players to coach the Hoos. A few years later, he took over as head coach at Marshall, where he was not any more successful than he had been at Virginia. He lasted five years at Marshall and went 12-42-1, winning just five conference games.
Randle actually began his broadcasting career in the 1960s, somehow working as a player/broadcaster for the Cardinals. Once his coaching career was done, he went back into broadcasting and served as the color analyst for Marshall football. He also covered Virginia football as well. Later on, he had a syndicated sports talk radio show on ESPN radio.
Sonny’s signature line on his radio show was: "Until our next visit, this is Sonny Randle sayin' --[long pause]-- sooo long every buddy."
So from all of us at Streaking the Lawn, we say “so long buddy”.