Joseph Randle sat anxiously in a Phoenix-area hotel, fulfilling his Fiesta Bowl media responsibilities, but itching to break away.
Bowl week activities awaited the Oklahoma State running back, but with the game still days away Randle was hoping to skip out on one later that night.
“I'm trying to get to this OU-Iowa game,” Randle said of the Insight Bowl to be played across town.
His reason? “I gotta see my boy Blake Bell go to work.”
Rivals as youngsters in Wichita and rivals today, the relationship between Randle and Oklahoma's Belldozing quarterback-in-waiting falls somewhere between friends and competitors. And it's likely that both will have opportunities to leave imprints on the Bedlam rivalry when Oklahoma State plays at Oklahoma at 2:30 p.m. Saturday.
Randle and Bell first became aware of each other in the fifth grade. Randle quarterbacked the Wichita Bulldogs. Bell quarterbacked the Wichita Tigers. Both starred for the city's premier Pop Warner teams.
“He was that option quarterback always making plays,” Bell said of Randle. “We went back-and-forth. I remember they beat us in league play and it ended up we came back and met them in the championship and ended up beating them.”
“They gave us our first loss ever,” Randle said, the fifth-grader in him still a little bit miffed about the defeat.
A high school showdown between the two never materialized. Bell's Bishop Carroll and Randle's Wichita Southeast never played.
“But we always touched base,” Bell said. “We had each other's numbers, texted quite a bit to see how everything went. Camps off the field, offseason camps, different honors for football. We'd meet up, take pictures for All-City, All-State, that kind of stuff.”
And they chatted quite a bit during the recruitment process.
Both were four-star can't miss prospects, two of the most sought after at their respective positions in the state.
“Early in our recruiting process, we definitely both (talked about going to the same school),” Bell said. “We thought it would be cool, maybe look at the same school and get in the same backfield.”
Said Randle, “I wanted (Blake) to come here, but we didn't offer him.”
Didn't have a chance anyway.
Bell was strong with OU from the beginning, committing early in the process. And Randle was content with Oklahoma State.
And that's how it should have been. The two had been long-time cross-town rivals. Why not move it one state to the south?
So they did. And three years later, with Bedlam 2012 coming in Norman Saturday, their importance to the legendary college football clash has never been higher.
Using speed and elusiveness, Randle has a Big 12-best 1,099 rushing yards and 10 touchdowns. Using power and strength out of his patented package, the Belldozer has 10 bruising touchdowns.
And the Wichita pair, producing heavily for schools historically filled with Texas and Oklahoma players, has combined for 2,660 yards and 57 touchdowns the past two seasons.
“It's awesome,” Bell said. “Seeing another guy from Wichita, a guy you grew up playing against, seeing the success he's had on the field at the next level is awesome.”
But come late this week, in true Bedlam spirit, the friendship will be put on a brief hold.
“He actually text me right before the game (last year) and said, ‘Man, I hope I get about three or four,' “ Randle said. “Then he asked me if I was going to match that. I was just like, ‘I don't know, we going to see.' So we got a little competition going.”
“I'm sure I'll shoot him a text at the end of (this) week,” Bell added. “It's always good to have some friendly trash talk here and there.”