Former Terps Become Teammates Again


Their strength coach at the University of Maryland had companion nicknames for them - 'Great Dane' and 'Great Dean' - because they were two of the Terrapins' more renowned workout warriors, one always trying to outdo the other.

Former Maryland standouts Dane Randolph and Dean Muhtadi are in a different type of competition now, fighting against the longest of odds to not only make the Green Bay Packers' roster as non-drafted free agents, but to do so starting as mere tryout prospects looking to earn contracts during the post-draft rookie orientation.

To hear the college teammates tell it, though, the mere presence of an old workout companion to encourage, criticize and otherwise share the journey is making those long odds just a tad more favorable, even if no one else really notices.

"We compete against each other all the time, in anything we do," Randolph said. "We're always working out together, any chance we get, always pushing each other. It's great to have Dean here because I think he's going to push me more than anybody else will.

"With our work ethic and the fact that we're both here pushing each other is really going to help us out a lot. It really is. That's all we've really got, our work ethic."

It got them this far. Randolph, and offensive tackle, and Muhtadi, a defensive nose tackle, played the last two seasons together at Maryland after Muhtadi transferred there from Division III Christopher Newport University (Va.).

Neither was drafted nor received a free-agent contract in the flurry of post-draft signings. But both got an offer to come try out for the Packers during rookie orientation May 1-3, and thus far they've maximized on that opportunity.

The Packers signed only four players of the roughly two dozen brought in on a tryout basis, and these two Terrapins formed half of that class. The orientation workouts weren't quite the same as those at Maryland, when Muhtadi was occasionally at defensive end and would go head-to-head against Randolph in practice - the 'Great Dane' and 'Great Dean' mano-a-mano, you might say - but seeing one another lined up on the other side of the ball brought a sliver of familiarity to the proceedings.

"We got after it pretty good," Muhtadi recalled of the times they banged heads during college practices. "I played primarily tackle at Maryland, so it was usually in double-team situations and some of the heaviest contact drills. I played end for a while there, too, so we got after it. Maryland practices, everything was full speed, and I definitely went against him a lot. But it was all in good fun, nothing personal. Just football."

Their workouts in the weight room, on the other hand, ... well, those got a little personal.

"We were always challenging each other to bigger weights, and it was always a competition," Muhtadi said. "If I lifted first he was going to be that guy to add on five pounds just to beat me, and I was the same way."

"Yeah," Randolph added. "We've got our own lifts where if he goes first, I try to beat him out. If I go first, he'll try to beat me out."

Now, they're sort of on a quest together, and their college friendship has only grown since coming to Green Bay earlier this month. Their lockers in the auxiliary locker room are on the end of facing rows, directly across from one another, and they ended up getting the "good news" - the contract offers - together following the third rookie workout on orientation weekend.

"We were sitting having lunch together after the last practice, and some coaches came down and asked us to come upstairs and sign some paperwork," Muhtadi recalled. "So we thought it was some form that maybe we didn't get a chance to sign earlier, but once they got us up top, they told us we made it, so it was pretty exciting. We had to fill out gobs of paperwork after that, but it was definitely worth it.

"It took everything we had to just not go nuts."

{sportsad300}During the two weeks prior to their return this week for offseason workouts leading up to organized team activities (OTAs), Muhtadi hosted a cookout back home in Virginia for both families. In addition to seeing the Packers' decorations, both players' parents got to meet for the first time as well.

The OTAs, which start next week and involve most of the 80-man roster, will be a whole different level of competition compared to the rookies-only weekend, but Randolph and Muhtadi don't plan to change their approach now.

It sounds simple, but both are just going to continue to work hard, and display the same work ethic that helped Randolph start 24 games at right tackle over three years at Maryland, and helped Muhtadi rise from D-III prospect to D-I starter as a collegian.

Oh, and there's a little friendly agreement they made back on that first weekend of May, too.

"We were each other's biggest support system while we were up here," Muhtadi said. "We even had a big joke that our responsibility to each other as former teammates was to go out and destroy the other one's competition so we could both make the team."

Then he added with a laugh, "We're definitely out to do that."

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