In Focus: Magnetic Personalities
Randle, Shepard Form an Explosive Combination
On one end, there's Rueben Randle, the reserved small-town player who prefers to keep his two cents to himself. On the other end there's Russell Shepard, the extroverted, big-city athlete who isn't afraid to chime in on any topic. Together, they make up one of the best combinations the SEC has seen since football and tailgating.
LSU has arguably the most complete offense in the SEC this year, boasting a tough line, versatile running backs, and efficient game management by the quarterbacks. Junior wide receivers Randle and Shepard complete the offense by providing vertical threats and keeping defenses honest.
Randle, a 2008 Parade and USA Today All-American from Bastrop, La., entered the 2011 season on the Biletnikoff Award watch list and he currently sits at first place in the SEC in receiving yards against conference opponents.
Shepard, the nation's No. 1 recruit in 2008 and a dual-threat athlete from Houston, has shown flashes of brilliance this season with his size and tremendous speed and adds to the versatility of the wide receiving corps.
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The two receivers compliment each other on the field, but it's their relationship off of the field that contributes to their success.
"Rueben and I are a testimony of how close team relationships convert into success on the field," said Shepard. "I've been able to learn from him, he's been able to learn from me. We just have that feeling."
It all began in 2008 during the LSU recruiting process. Shepard recalls meeting a quiet Randle and immediately being intrigued by him.
"I could not get him to say more than two words for me," said Shepard, jokingly.
Despite their obvious differences, Shepard saw their many similarities, including the fact that the two both come from a big family. He felt that Randle could teach him things both on and off the field and knew that this was the start of a great friendship.
Being the people person that he is, Shepard made a point to stay in touch with Randle up to the day they reunited as student-athletes on campus. Shepard arrived to campus a semester before Randle, so he took on the role of showing the Bastrop star the ends and outs of the university.
The two agree that making the adjustment from high school football to college football was "different." Having to transition from being the best in high school to being among the best in the country is no easy feat, but Randle and Shepard gladly accepted the challenge.
Randle focused on getting used to the speed of the SEC, the fast past of the game and improving his own skills at the wide receiver position through offseason training.
"I really focused on becoming a more explosive wide receiver and I think that really helped me transition my game to the field on Saturdays," said Randle.
On the other hand, Shepard, a quarterback in high school, focused on working with coaches to find the position that would allow him to maximize his talents.
"LSU wanted to see how the quarterback thing was going to work, but they also wanted to see what I could do at other positions," said Shepard. "We wanted to see how I could benefit from that and help this team," said Shepard.
After lining up at three different positions in his LSU career, Shepard found his niche as a wide receiver. He spent the majority of his sophomore season learning and getting comfortable with the position.
"I had to learn on the run," said Shepard. "I had to learn the position and learn how to get open and get the ball, and that was the main problem that I had last year."
This recent offseason was Shepard's first full offseason to spend time perfecting his craft at the wide receiver position. First-year quarterbacks coach Steve Kragthorpe helped him to settle into the position, but his quiet counterpart was never too far away to help as well.
"Rueben was and is a big help," said Shepard. "Seeing him do what he does everyday at practice, during summer workouts, spring ball and games and having someone like him pushing me, makes me want to be as good as him."
The relationship between the two receivers flourished as they trained hour after hour and day after day to achieve one goal: to be the best. Those interactions laid the foundation for what is now not only a dynamic duo on the field, but also a brotherhood.
"We pretty much grew up together at the football operations building," said Randle. "We've gotten close with each other, and he's become more like a brother now."
With sights on winning a national championship this season, the two juniors have emerged as central leaders of the Tiger team. The more reticent Randle prefers to let his actions speak for him and work one-on-one with the younger players.
"I try to lead by example and keep the guys focused on the task at hand," said Randle. "I like to take some of the young guys off to the side and help them with their plays, especially off the field. For instance, I get with Odell Beckham, Jr. the night before games and go through the playbook to make sure he knows his assignments."
Shepard, of course, is a vocal leader who enjoys keeping the team motivated and helping others through situations regardless of the nature.
"I like to try to help the young guys mature and teach them how to make it through tough situations both on and off the field," said Shepard.
The attributes of these two athletes do not go unnoticed, as both their coaches and fellow teammates elected them to represent the team as leaders on the Unity Council. The Unity Council is a group of players appointed to act as mediators between the players and coaches in the team's chain of command.
"We have variety of guys, old and young, on the council," said Shepard. "This is a great thing because the more guys that we have on the council, the more guys we can reach out to and keep in line."
Being an LSU Tiger means upholding a tradition of excellence and having a will to be the best in all facets. There's no question that Rueben Randle and Russell Shepard will continue to contribute to this tradition and to the success of the Tiger football team.