Randall, Rollins built friendship before draft
Months before they became the Green Bay Packers' first two picks in the NFL draft, Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins talked about it.
They were roommates at the Senior Bowl in January, and they connected naturally over similar pasts. Randall thought baseball was his path until a shoulder injury stole the power from his throwing arm. Rollins thought basketball was his path until his 5-foot-11 height got in the way.
Both turned to football, which is how they found themselves as roommates at the Senior Bowl. They were competing for their shot at the NFL four months ago. Yes, Randall and Rollins had plenty of conversations about their futures.
"The one thing that I remember," Randall said, "is I kept telling him, 'We're going to be on the same team.' I was really joking with him, but it just happened to come true."
Funny how things work out.
There was no way Randall and Rollins could've predicted they would end up together in Green Bay. Sure, playing for the same team was a fun hypothetical, something to talk about. But there are 32 NFL teams, and the two defensive backs played similar positions. Chances were remote.
Which made for a memorable moment last weekend when the Packers drafted Rollins in the second round, one night after they drafted Randall in the first.
"I just texted him, like, 'I told you,'" Randall said. "With a lot of laughing (emoji) faces. He was just telling me how excited he was, and we were just excited to be working with each other."
Their friendship – Randall called Rollins his "best bud" – developed quickly at the Senior Bowl. The two multi-sport athletes would share tips on techniques, always trying to help each other.
Now as teammates, Randall and Rollins are still roommates. And they're still helping each other.
They're studying the Packers' defensive playbook together, quizzing each other before bed. Rollins said it's surreal to think about how their paths converged in the same city, with the same team.
"He's a great player, and I'm looking forward to learning from him," Rollins said. "He'll probably say the same, he's looking forward to learning from me, because he brings something different to the game. I bring something different to the game. If we can combine those things while also learning from the veterans, I think it's going to be great."
Randall and Rollins have had different experiences during the Packers' rookie minicamp. While Randall has been held out of practice with a "minor" ankle injury that happened during a private workout in April, Rollins has shined. His pick-6 against fifth-round quarterback Brett Hundley was the highlight of Friday's practice.
Soon enough, both will be on the field together. In some ways, Randall and Rollins will be competitors as much as they're teammates. There are only so many snaps to go around in the secondary. Both rookies are aiming for the same roles, the same jobs.
But Randall and Rollins said the competition won't affect their relationship.
"We've built a strong enough friendship where we're not going to be jealous of one another," Rollin said. "We're teammates at the end of the day, but we're also competitors in our hearts. I think it's going to be great. I'm glad I got to meet him at the Senior Bowl and it's been a great friendship ever since."
-- firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @ByRyanWood