In this week’s Throwback Thursday piece, we take a look at former NFL wide receiver Antwaan Randle El. He played in the NFL for nine years; five for the Pittsburgh Steelers and four for the Washington Redskins. Randle El was known as a special teams specialist and gadget play wizard. He finished his career with 4,467 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns on a 62.1% catching percentage.
His special team career numbers were 4,316 total return yards and six combined touchdowns. Randle El was what Slash Stewart could’ve been before Slash changed back to the quarterback position.
Randle El attended the University of Indiana from 1998-2001, where he played the majority of his college career as a quarterback. In his freshman year, he showcased his pure athleticism. In fact, in his first game, Randle El broke the freshman NCAA Division I record for total yards with 467 combined yards. Later that year, he was awarded the Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
In his tenure with Indiana, Randle El broke several records; including becoming the first player to tally 40 passing touchdowns and 40 rushing touchdowns. He finished fifth all-time on the NCAA total yards list and became the only player to have four consecutive years of 2,500 or more total yards. Over the entirety of his college career, Randle El finished with 7,469 passing yards, 3,895 rushing yards, and a combined 92 touchdowns.
The Steelers drafted Randle El in the second round of the 2002 NFL Draft as a wide receiver/return specialist. Over his time with the team, he had a fruitful five years with 2,265 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns (seven receiving, five special teams) on a 63% catching percentage. In 2010, Randle El was named to the Steelers All-Decade team for special teams.
He ended up winning the Super Bowl with the Steelers, which turned out to be his first of two Super Bowl appearances. In a sloppy game by both the Seattle Seahawks and Pittsburgh Steelers, Randle El performed a feat never before seen. He threw the game-clinching touchdown to Hines Ward for 43 yards, becoming the third non-quarterback in NFL history to throw for a touchdown in the Super Bowl.
During the 2006 free agency period, Randle El signed with the Redskins. In his tenure, he totaled 2,202 receiving yards and nine touchdowns (eight receiving, one special teams) on a 61.2% catching percentage. His career with the Redskins was rather uneventful with just one playoff appearance.
In 2010, Randle El rejoined the Steelers, although it was clear to see the former jack of all trades was spent. He played in 19 total games that year, managing only 303 yards receiving, no touchdowns, and the second-lowest catching percentage of his career at 56.4%. His last game was during Super Bowl XLV in a losing effort to Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers.
Although Antwaan Randle El was never the player to put up 1,000 yards or 10 touchdowns, he was always the serious threat that could burn you at any moment. He finished 14th in NFL history for career punt return touchdowns at five; four of which he got as a member of the Steelers.
An odd stat Randle El possessed was his 157.6 passer rating. It marks the highest passer rating by any player with 20 or more passes in NFL history.
When you think of Pittsburgh Steelers punt returners and gadget play extraordinaire, you think of Antwaan Randle El.
Photo Credit: Joe Robbins, USA Today Sports