Deon Randall has fond memories of phone calls with Cal Poly head coach Tim Walsh.
The Mustangs were recruiting Randall, then a high school quarterback at San Diego Francis W. Parker School, and when Walsh called, the four-year letterman was listening.
“I liked the school,” Randall said. “I liked coach Walsh. I think coach Walsh was a great guy when he recruited me. I was looking at them if I wanted to stay in California, but once I decided to leave California, I was very up-front with them, and I told him I wanted to go Ivy.”
With invitations to play from several Ivy League programs, Randall ended up at Yale, where the junior now leads the Bulldogs’ receiving corps.
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Cal Poly wasn’t the only program he turned down.
At 5-foot-9, 185 pounds, Randall received scholarship offers from FCS teams Montana and UC Davis, and he passed on offers from FBS programs Villanova and San Diego State, where his brother Sakimo played tight end, as well as service academies Army, Navy and Air Force.
Randall said he even had preferred walk-on opportunities at a few Pac-12 schools, but he wanted more in his academic experience.
The political science major may end up in finance after working under a Yale grad for Morgan Stanley this past summer.
“Once I got the opportunity to look at Ivy League schools,” Randall said, “I thought it was a tremendous opportunity to take advantage of. It was a great academic opportunity and a great football opportunity.”
That said, Randall is excited for the opportunity to play back in his home state, where Yale (2-0, 1-0 Ivy League) has only played twice before in its 140-year history.
Randall will reconnect with family and friends who have yet to see him play. He’s already began reaching out to Cal Poly sophomore receiver Roland Jackson, a former high school teammate he once threw passes to.
He’ll also see another old friend travelling up from San Diego.
“It’s going to be great to be back in California,” Randall said. “I asked my brother to bring me a California burrito. That’s just something you can’t get” in Connecticut.
Hoping the personal highlights don’t end with Mexican food, Randall is poised for a big game.
He tied a team record with three touchdown catches and added another on the ground in last week’s 38-23 victory over Cornell. Randall had scoring strikes of 8, 23 and 44 yards through the air and a 10-yard touchdown run, accounting for all four of Yale’s second-half scores and breaking a 10-10 halftime tie.
It was a career performance for Randall, who missed all of last season rehabbing shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum.
He didn’t miss much. While Randall redshirted, several other players also succumbed to injury, and the Bulldogs stumbled to a 2-8 record under then first-year head coach Tony Reno.
As a sophomore in 2011, Randall had a team-high 48 catches and ranked second with 523 yards and three touchdowns.
He played in all 10 games as a true freshman, rushing for a team-high 5.3 yards per carry on 29 attempts while sharing the award for Yale’s top freshman with Wes Gavin, another former Parker teammate.
It’s not surprising Randall started his Bulldogs career as a running back.
He played receiver, cornerback and quarterback at different times in his high school career.
Coming out of Parker, option teams after Randall wanted him to try out at quarterback. Others wanted him to play cornerback. Still more wanted him as a running back.
He said what made the recruitment from the Ivy League schools unique is they offered him a chance to play whatever position he preferred.
And he eventually settled into the spot he wanted all along, one you won’t usually hear from prep quarterbacks given their choice of anywhere on the field.
“I wanted to play receiver,” Randall said.