STILLWATER — In 2004, a 12-year-old Joseph Randle excitedly watched from the stands in Lawrence as his brother, John, took a handoff off the right side. John spun off, dodged and outran a slew tacklers for a 43-yard, highlight-worthy touchdown, as Kansas recorded its first victory over Kansas State in 12 years.
“We literally couldn't hear each other,” Joseph said of the moment he spent celebrating with his oldest brother, Larry. “We was having to scream into each other's ears. It was crazy.”
Fast forward six years, and it was John watching little brother Joseph score Oklahoma State's first touchdown in that same stadium, as the Cowboys scored a blowout victory over the Jayhawks in 2010 to secure the program's 10th regular-season victory for the first time in its history.
Joseph and John mirror each other in a lot of ways. Same position. Same No. 1 on the jersey. Similar inflections when they speak. Even in photos, they have a strikingly similar build with the football in their hands.
But the brothers have had different journeys while in college.
Though John found plenty of success on the field, too many off-the-field issues eventually got him dismissed from KU. Today, Joseph has established himself as perhaps the Big 12's best running back, and currently ranks sixth in the nation in rushing (133.50 yards per game).
Through it all, Joseph and John have remained close. And John knows his experiences have shown Joseph how to act — and not to act — as a prominent football player at a Big 12 school.
“By the time he got to college, he already knew,” John said. “I'm a living witness of things that he don't want to have to go through. And I'm a living witness of things he does want to go through on the field, the success that I had.
“He has an all-around example from me.”
When John and Joseph were kids, they used to set up a football “field” in between two couches in the house. Because John was seven years older, he would play on his knees, while Joseph would play standing up.
“I'd run a bunch of touchdowns, and he'd just get so mad,” John said with a laugh.
Joseph was the baby brother of the family. So he was a bit spoiled. And he was always confident, probably more so than his older brother, John admits.
Even though there was a large age gap between Larry (10 years), John (seven years) and Joseph, all three Randle boys wanted to follow in each other's footsteps.
That meant a lot of football.
Larry first played collegiately at Emporia State, a Division II school in Emporia, Kan. During that time, John became a standout running back and defensive back at Wichita Southeast High School and the No. 3-rated recruit in Kansas in the 2003 class.
When colleges started recruiting John, an elementary school-aged Joseph took it as a chance to also make an impression on those coaches.
During in-home visits, he'd entertain by popping in his Little League tapes, which showed him throwing touchdown passes as a quarterback and laying big hits as an outside linebacker. Then-KU coach Mark Mangino even followed the Randles to one of Joseph's basketball games.
“I told (Mangino) I was going to hit 13 points, and I had 13 points,” Joseph said with a smile.
John eventually picked the Jayhawks and had an impact right away. He played both running back and cornerback as a freshman, tallying 503 rushing yards and 22 tackles and earning All-Big 12 honorable mention honors. He became the Jayhawks' leading rusher the next season, compiling 540 yards and scoring nine total touchdowns.