BY DENNIS SILVA II | DENSILVA2@GMAIL.COM
Thoughts of frustration crossed Mayde Creek head football coach Brian Randle’s mind one late April afternoon as he sat on a couch in his house, beyond irritated with the day’s earlier events.
As it was, at the time then and now, the world was in a precarious state because of the novel coronavirus, or COVID-19, that halted schooling and postponed, and then eventually canceled, spring athletics. Mere days into his arrival at Mayde Creek, the new Rams coach needed a way to reach his new kids, for them to get to know him and him to get to know them. Zoom, a popular video conferencing tool, was thought to be the answer.
“My first Zoom with my kids got hacked, and it was all kinds of craziness,” Randle recalled. “A guy’s on there cussing … it was awful. After that, I told my guys, ‘Hey, we’re not doing that again. We’re not going to go through that.’”
Randle, who now uses Canvas as another method to do group meetings with his team, called Katy ISD athletic director Debbie Decker and expressed his discomfort.
“I had no control, the screen flipped over, I was trying to exit everything,” he said. “But I still needed to reach the kids. So, I thought I’d jump on social media and just use Twitter. I told the coaches to make sure all the kids are following me, and that way I can give them something positive.”
And so, “The Morning Minute” was born.
After mulling on his couch, Randle went to his car and shot a video with the message he intended to speak to his kids that day. He posted the video at 11:19 a.m. on April 20.
That message, which as of July 20 had more than 4,000 views, spawned a social media craze for Randle during unprecedented times that desperately need uplifting. Randle shoots the videos on his phone and has done them on campus, in his car, in his house and in his office.
“There was no brainstorming, no thought behind it, no process,” Randle said. “I just didn’t want anymore Zooms getting hacked, man!”
Randle has produced 70 videos as of July 23. The videos address a variety of significant topics, such as mental health, the value of time, positive thinking, the dangers of the cell phone, and “embracing our scars,” among many others.
While most of his guests include Houston-area high school athletic directors like Decker and coaches such as Jon Kay (North Shore), John Snelson (Dickinson), Shaun McDowell (Richmond Foster), James Williams (Marshall), Joe Sheffy (Danbury assistant coach/former Mayde Creek, Taylor head coach), Ricky Tullos (George Ranch) and the district’s own Chad Simmons (Taylor), Randle has also included professional athletes like former NBA veteran Rashard Lewis and former NFL star LaDainian Tomlinson.
He has even had a state trooper on as a guest.
“It’s like a mini game-day speech that motivates me to get my day started,” Mayde Creek senior running back Julius Loughridge said. “Coach Randle is genuine person that cares for his players like they were his own children. My favorite Morning Minute is the one when he sang Rumors with his plastic spoon as his microphone.”
Randle is all about positive affirmation. It drives him.
His mother’s degree is in social work. His father has been in education for 46 years. Randle grew up in a “no-excuses” household that stressed the importance of helping others.
“That’s my family background, so we’re all about helping others achieve their goals,” he said. “As long as we’re helping people, we’ll be fine. The Lord will take care of the rest. I feel like you block your own blessings when you’re not being a blessing to somebody else.”
When he was 3 years old growing up in Stillwater, Oklahoma, Randle was left completely blind in his right eye after a bad incident when he was playing on the stairs with his older brother.
“He had a big wheel and I had a tricycle,” Randle said. “Well, if you have a big wheel, you can go down the apartment stairs into the snow without a problem. A tricycle’s not gonna. I flip over and, coming from the second story, I hit my head so hard I severed my optic nerve. But I’ve never known what it’s like to see out of two eyes, so I don’t know what I’m missing. I was too young to remember.”
Randle, as is his way, turned a bad thing into a good thing.
“When a kid’s feeling down, I’ll say, ‘How many hands do you have? How many ears do you have? How many feet do you have? How many eyes you got?’” Randle said. “Then I tell him, ‘So, you’re doing better than old Coach Randle.’ We can laugh about it and it helps them understand that no matter what situation you’re in, somebody is doing worse than you. It brings everything back into perspective.”
After the accident, Randle said people always told him what he couldn’t or wouldn’t do because of his vision, or lack thereof. In baseball, he had to wear an awkward helmet. When he played football, he had to wear a visor.
It never stopped him. He played defensive end as a three-year starter at Texas A&M-Kingsville, a NCAA Division II program notable for winning national championships.
It was there that he met Ky Johnson, his roommate and teammate at TAMUK. Johnson’s brother is Rashard Lewis. Through that connection, Randle attended NBA all-star games, meeting Kobe Bryant and flying on the same private jet as Ray Lewis.
“Just because you don’t make it big … don’t knock the smaller schools, because you’re going to have the same experience,” Randle said of what he tells his players. “It’s all about what you make of it anyway.”
Randle’s first defensive coordinator in Kingsville was Chris Ballard, now the general manager of the Indianapolis Colts.
He has known Tomlinson since he was 18. Tomlinson played college football at TCU with Randle’s best friend, Russell. That’s how Randle came to know “LT.” Randle serves as a volunteer coach at Tomlinson’s “LT Preparatory Camps” held around the country every year.
Randle initially never wanted “The Morning Minute” to be about pro athletes. He wanted high school coaches and athletic directors as the primary messengers. But soon enough, he had peers at every level of sport asking to participate on the videos.
“We all have a story that needs to be shared, and I need the kids to understand that as long as you’re doing something positive in your life, you’ll be OK,” he said.
Randle, who often wears a green T-shirt with “The Morning Minute with Old Coach Randle” in yellow lettering, wanted his kids to see “the old guard” delivering the same messages they’re hearing from the younger coaches.
“The names change, but the game remains the same,” Randle said. “The format is different, but we’re saying the same exact thing. We’re all saying the same things their parents are telling them.”
Randle is “on the fence” about if he’ll continue doing the videos once—if?—things ever return to normalcy. He has established quite a following because of “The Morning Minute,” and he’s thought about how much more it could be developed.
“It has become a bit of a … I don’t want to say a chore, but it’s like, ‘Oh, man, I gotta shoot this thing real quick,’” he said, laughing. “It’s turned into a task now, so I started putting some music to it and getting each one a little different. I don’t know how to do all the editing and everything, but if I knew how to do that stuff, I’d be dangerous! It’d be a cool minute.
“But when you get former players watching it, encouraging you to keep it going … that’s big. Ex-players, teachers in the district … it makes you feel like maybe it is reaching people and doing something. We’re all connected in some kind of way. If we can be more positive, I feel like things will be a lot better than what they’re at right now.”
Indeed, Randle receives his own positive affirmation about the videos. He was in Alief at a shoe store recently when he ran into some of his former players from Alief Taylor High, his previous coaching stop before Mayde Creek.
“Hey coach, what’s up with this Morning Minute?” one said. “We watch it every day. Keep it going!”
Jaden Newsome, another former player of Randle’s from Alief Taylor, used to record Randle’s talks on his own phone during team meditation before games on Fridays. Newsome still watches those videos when he’s frustrated or feeling down.
“The messages actually mean a lot, especially during these times,” Mayde Creek senior receiver L’Den Skinner said. “It’s so inspirational and he also gives a lot of wisdom, not only to the football team but the whole school. I know a lot of people already look up to him and he’s respected by a lot.”