Ulmo S. “Sonny” Randle
Sonny Randle distinguished himself in the football world as a standout athlete, a dedicated coach, and a spirited color commentator. A native of Fork Union, Virginia, Randle proved himself an all-around athlete by making the All-State football and basketball teams and being named All-American in track as a student at the Fork Union Military Academy. His success at the academy was only a glimpse of what Randle would later accomplish in his career.
Randle became a multi-sport star at the University of Virginia, where he was named Honorable Mention All-American for leading the nation in kick-off returns and pass receiving his senior year. In 1958, he was selected to play in the Blue-Gray football game in Montgomery, Alabama. Not only did he excel in football and basketball while at UVA, Randle also competed as a sprinter at the Olympic Trials.
Upon graduation, Randle signed with the NFL’s Chicago Cardinals (two years later becoming the St. Louis Cardinals), where he played from 1959 to 1967. He briefly played for the San Francisco 49ers before ending his career with the Dallas Cowboys in 1970. Throughout his career, Randle caught more touchdowns than any other player in the NFL in the 1960’s. He earned a spot in the Pro Bowl four times (1960, ’61, ’62, ’65) and was named All-Pro while with the Cardinals. In 1988, he was selected for the All-Time Pro St. Louis football team with 417 receptions for over 6,000 yards and 71 touchdowns.
His desire to continue in football led Randle to a 13-year coaching career. Randle joined East Carolina University as an assistant football coach in 1970, but shortly took over as Head Coach in 1971. He turned the football team around and led them to two Southern Conference championships, which earned him the title of Southern Conference Coach of the Year in 1973. Randle returned to his alma mater to serve as head football coach, but he soon left UVA to become the Massanutten Academy head football coach in 1976. After serving as the academy’s Athletic Director for three years, Randle moved on to Marshall University in 1979 to serve as head football coach.
Randle did not limit himself to coaching college football teams; he also taught at the Sonny Randle Sports Camp in his hometown during the off-season. Always innovative, Randle was one of the pioneers in inviting pro athletes to summer camps. Again not limiting himself, Randle was also asked to work with the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team on running techniques. Hall of Famer Lou Brock credits Randle for helping him steal over 900 bases in his 19-year career.
At the conclusion of a long gridiron career, Randle set his sights on pursuing a career in radio and television broadcasting. He served as Vice President of Sports for Ray Communications Radio and Television, and has covered major college football for more than 20 years as a color analyst and sports commentator in St. Louis and Virginia. In addition, Randle became president of S-R Sports, a syndicated radio network that produces sports talk shows broadcast throughout Virginia, in 1991.