It was a big dayfor Thaddeus Randle, one of the country's top high school defensive tackleprospects, when Nebraska coach Bo Pelini visited his Galena Park, Texas, homein January. But the boy's mother, Julia (Sunshine) Long, almost missed it.Long, 37, had a tryout at defensive tackle for the Houston Energy of thefull-tackle Independent Women's Football League, which was founded in 2000. Sherushed through the workout and made it in time to meet Pelini. Thaddeus saysnow, "It was a pretty good day."
A few weeks laterthe 6'1", 255-pound North Shore High standout signed with Nebraska. Aroundthat time the 5'9", 195-pound Long, a certified medical assistant, learnedshe had won a job with the Energy. Long has wanted to play football since shewas little; her son's success spurred her to try out. Mother and son break downher game film together; Thaddeus says she needs to work on creating separationand finishing every play.
Most important, thegame has brought the two closer. Says Thaddeus, who leaves for Lincoln after hegraduates later this month, "Mom started really getting into my life thisyear." To which Long answers, "He came to my first game, in the pouringrain. It brings tears to your eyes."
BILLY SMITH II/HOUSTON CHRONICLE (RANDLE)
¬†FAMILYUNIT Long (right) chose the jersey number her son wore in highschool.
COURTESY OF ED MATCHETTE (LONG)
[See caption above]