One of John Teerlinck's favorite memories of John Randle wasn't formed at the Metrodome or upon the hallowed grounds of Lambeau Field.
"There was the time at Cub Foods," said Teerlinck, the Vikings defensive line coach from 1992 to '94. "John is walking down the aisle and there's a woman coming toward him with a grocery cart."
Randle, an undrafted rookie in 1990, was a bundle of quick-twitch muscle housed in the compact body of a promising young defensive tackle. His mentor was the unconventional Teerlinck, who preached the importance of using even the most mundane situations to practice one's pass-rushing moves.
"John was always saying, 'Work your move, work your move,'" Randle said. "Any doorway you walked through, work your move, he'd say. You get out of a car? Work your move."
Unfortunately, the poor woman pushing the grocery cart hadn't been given this important piece of information.
"John moves toward her and starts putting a stutter-shake spin move on her cart," Teerlinck said. "She froze. She didn't know what to think, so she starts screaming and yelling for the manager."
Teerlinck couldn't have been more proud. Randle understood him.
"John Teerlinck is kind of like Mr. Miyagi," Randle said. "He's very unorthodox. A different breed. Rough around the edges. He tells you things that are funny, but they register if you just listen. That's why he's the guru."
On Aug. 7, Randle will be enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio. His presenter? Teerlinck, of course.
"It's the greatest honor of my career," said Teerlinck, now the defensive line coach for the Colts. "I've coached 22 Pro Bowlers. I've been a part of three teams that won Super Bowls. But not many assistant coaches get an honor like this in their lifetime."
According to Joe Horrigan, the Hall of Fame's vice president for communications/exhibits, only 10 assistant coaches have served as presenters out of 260 inductees.
"John Randle and John Teerlinck were almost the perfect match," said Tom Thayer, a former Bears guard who now works as a radio analyst for Bears games. "One of the things that made Randle great was he had an innate ability to anticipate the snap count. And Teerlinck, he always expressed having the ability to anticipate the count, disrupt the backfield and get sacks. The way they studied film of opponents and [Randle's] desire to be great, it was a Hall of Fame combination."
Randle had one sack in 1990 and 9 1/2 in 1991. In 1992, his first season under Teerlinck, he had 10 1/2 sacks and earned the first of six consecutive first-team All-Pro honors. Randle had 12 1/2 sacks in 1993 and 13 1/2 in 1994, his last under Teerlinck.
It was only three seasons, but together Randle and Teerlinck became two of the more eccentric personalities in NFL history. Randle wore face paint, talked trash and was a dream-come-true player for NFL Films. Teerlinck not only allowed Randle to be a free spirit, he constantly searched for unique ways to encourage it.
"Remember the movie, 'The Crow'?" asked Teerlinck, referring to the 1994 film in which the main character is murdered and then avenges his death after being revived from the dead by a crow.
Seems plausible. Go on.
"Well, this crow got in somebody's mind and possessed him, or something like that," said Teerlinck, who played defensive end for the Chargers from 1974 to '77. "[The movie] was big. So we went out and bought this stuffed crow and put it in John's locker. We'd talk about how this stuffed crow was going to take over John's mind and get three sacks. 'No stopping until you get three sacks, John. If you get three, the crow will leave.' You know. Stuff like that."
Don't laugh. Randle ended up with 137 1/2 sacks, more than any other defensive tackle in NFL history.
"[Teerlinck] pushed me to the point where I went to the best that I could be," Randle said. "Everything I'm going through in my life right now is possible because of him. I always tell him, 'JT, you didn't just change my career. You changed my whole life.' "
Mark Craig • email@example.com