Plenty of former football players go into broadcasting, but how many return to the gridiron? Meet Gord Randall, who's put away the microphone and put on the helmet and shoulder pads. Randall played CIS football with Queen's University for a few years as an offensive lineman, but left for the broadcasting booth following the team's 2010 training camp; he served as a sideline reporter for football games on campus radio station CFRC that season, then worked as a colour commentator on the broadcasts the following year. This year, he headed to UBC to do an education program, and wound up being asked to put the pads back on and play for the Thunderbirds.
"It was kind of an incidental circumstance," Randall said. "I was walking around campus to drop off an application for my program, I hear this voice behind me asking if I need help, I turn around and it's [UBC head coach] Coach [Shawn] Olson. We got to talking, I mentioned I'd played at Queen's and he said 'We're looking for bodies on the OL.'"
Randall said he hadn't planned on going back to football, but he couldn't resist the offer. He didn't play as much as he would have liked at Queen's and wanted to see if he could do more at the CIS level.
"I always felt I had some unfinished business at this level," he said.
Of course, preparing to play high-level football's substantially different from just being a typical student, so Randall had to get back to training hard.
"Personally, I had to shake off some rust, " he said.
He found a good group of players to work out with, though, including B.C. Lions' fullback Tim Cronk. Randall said that helped.
"I had a really good fitness program."
It's not always easy to mix in with a new group of teammates, but Randall said his local background (he's from Delta, B.C.) was an advantage, as were introductions from Pat Sullivan, another former Queen's player who suited up for UBC last year.
"It's been a relatively easy adjustment for me because I'm a local guy, there's some guys I know from high school," Randall said.
Randall said leaving football the first time was an adjustment, but he loved doing the radio work.
"I had an absolute blast," he said.
He said that's changed how he approaches football.
"It helped me rediscover the passion I had for the game."
Randall said his radio work also gave him a different perspective on playing football.
"I analyze things a little differently," he said. "I pay more attention to the holistic nature of a football play. I pay more attention to players on opposing teams."
He said he's getting back in the swing of playing, though.
"Things have gone really well."
Randall's starting the season as UBC's sixth offensive lineman, ready to step in in case of injury. He said it's shaping up to be an interesting campaign.
"Canada West is going to be a dogfight," he said. "I don't really see a weak team in the whole conference."
Still, Randall and the Thunderbirds are hopeful they can pull off at least a Canada West championship.
"We're very optimistic," he said. "Our team goal is the Hardy Cup."
If they're able to do that, it will be quite a return to the field for Randall indeed.