20210301-nws-underwoodcolumn Greg Randolph.JPG

Greg Randolph

Greg “Red” Randolph was a larger-than-life hero to his younger brothers.

Damon Randolph, the youngest of the five boys, idolized Greg when he played basketball, baseball and football at Madison Heights High School.

Greg’s ruggedness, physicality and aggressiveness best suited him to the football field, where he dominated at Madison Heights. Statistics from his senior year of 1977 illuminate his all-around ability.

On offense that season, Greg played fullback, rushing for more than 1,000 yards and scoring 15 touchdowns. But on defense he shined the brightest, registering nine quarterback sacks, four interceptions and four fumble recoveries in ‘77.

Perhaps most amazingly, he blocked five punts his senior year. Most football players go through an entire career without coming close to blocking a punt.

At 6-foot-2 and 190 pounds, he wasn’t big by today’s football standards. But he intimidated opponents and inspired teammates.

During his junior year in a mud-slogged, rain-soaked game against Muncie Northside, he blocked a punt and returned it for a touchdown for the only points in a 6-0 Pirates victory over the Titans.

Damon remembers his oldest brother scoring another touchdown on a fumble recovery against state powerhouse Carmel.

Greg was all-conference and all-state, a team Most Valuable Player and a Madison County Player of the Year.

Greg’s toughness was legendary. By Damon’s count, he broke his nose nine times, beginning when he “crawled out of his baby bed face first.”

Greg made a lasting impression through his play at Madison Heights.

“Growing up playing football for the Pirates, I and all my teammates wanted to be like Red,” Jeff Johnson remembered. “I wore his number 41 after he graduated. You talk about big shoes to fill. A true warrior.”

“Nobody ever hit harder than Red Randolph,” Tim Trueblood recalled.

“We all loved this man,” David Clendenen said. “He was a hero to all of us who knew him.”

No one was more in awe of Red Randolph than little brother Damon, who followed Greg as a football star eight years later at Madison Heights.

“He really was hard on me and all of us younger brothers,” Damon recounts. “But in looking back I wouldn’t want to trade anything about growing up with four older brothers. ... Greg and my parents were always my biggest fan and pushing me to get the best out of my ability.”

Damon had planned for his dad, Malcolm, to be the best man in his wedding in 1991. After Malcolm, tragically, was murdered in Anderson in 1990, Damon chose Greg, as the oldest of his brothers, to step in.

In the late 1980s, Greg and Damon worked out together in the summers in Anderson as the youngest brother continued his football career at St. Joseph’s College in Rensselaer.

“No one was going to beat Greg by working harder than he did. ... That translated into his life; huge competitor with a no-lose attitude," Damon says. "But once the game was over, he had the biggest heart of anyone out there.”

After Madison Heights, Greg played a year at the University of Evansville. After he returned home, he played for the Madison County Bulls and worked at Emge for 14 years and at VanDyne Crotty/CINTAS for 29.

He married Vickie, had daughter Brittney and, eventually, granddaughters Chloee, 14, and Carlee, 10. They, along with the rest of his family and friends, were his life.

When Damon landed in the hospital several years ago while dealing with a difficult personal issue, he woke up to find Greg at his bedside holding his hand.

“I wouldn’t have gotten through that tough stretch in life without him (again) telling me that this will pass and to just push through the tough days and better things are on the horizon,” Damon remembers.

Greg was the best at pushing through tough days.

But finally, the irresistible force on the football field encountered a foe more stubborn than himself.

He died of cancer at age 61 and was laid to rest Saturday.

He is mourned by his many friends and a large family, including, of course, his four brothers — Jay, Torin, Lanny and Damon.

It’s painful when a brother passes, especially when he was your hero, not just on the football field but in life.

In the end, though, death didn’t really beat Greg Randolph. In the hearts of his brother Damon and others who loved him, he’ll live forever.

Editor Scott Underwood’s column is published Mondays in The Herald Bulletin. Contact him at scott.underwood@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4845.