Family Tradition

Three generations of the Rhino family have played for Georgia Tech

Talk about sports families: Who in the world can top the Rhinos of Atlanta, formerly of Charlotte, NC?

In the professional ranks, there were prizefighters, Max and Buddy Baer; in baseball, Joe, Vince and Don DiMaggio, Dizzy Dean and Daffy Dean; and (Big Poison) and (Little Poison) Paul and Lloyd Waner.

But in the collegiate ranks, there never has been anything like the Rhino family: Randy, the only three-time All-American football player (1972-1974) in Georgia Tech history; his father, Chappell, a member of Tech’s baseball hall of fame and a solid defensive back in football for Coach Bobby Dodd; and Randy’s son Kelley, a football Yellow Jacket who may be the only son to break one of his father’s all-time records (season punt return yardage of 441 yards that stood for 29 years). Kelley also logged 1,130 career return yards, beating his father’s career mark by some 400 yards.

Randy’s siblings were athletic as well: brother Danny played in the same defensive backfield at Tech, brother Tim played football at South Carolina, brother Dave played baseball at Florida State University and sister Vicki was a cheerleader at Atlanta’s Henderson High School.

Randy’s father-in-law, Forest (Duck) Smith was a running back and a super baseball player at Tech; his brother-in-law, the late Mike Wysong, was a Tech varsity football letterman.

In the Rhino family, sports was not a sometimes thing; it was an all-times thing. Randy got his first uniform in 1957 when he was four years old.

Coach Chappell Rhino and his Pop Warner team were perennial Charlotte champions and guess who was the star? Randy, who continued to excel at Charlotte Olympic High School and was named “Athlete of The Year” for the city of Charlotte in 1971.

While all the Rhinos had their moments of glory, it was Randy who stood out. He was a prep All-American in football in Charlotte, and played baseball and basketball as well.

When the family moved from Charlotte to Atlanta, Friday nights belonged to Marist games. Chappell played football, baseball and basketball there in the 1940s and is a member of the Marist Hall of Fame. But Saturdays were spent at Grant Field where Randy was the talk of the town. He made 14 interceptions in his Tech career, second best in the school’s history. He led the nation in punt returns his sophomore season (1972). That same year he set the Tech record (which he still holds) for punt returns with a 96-yard scamper for a touchdown against South Carolina.

He was selected to every All-American team picked: Football Writers Association of America, United Press International, American Football Coaches Association, Walter Camp Foundation, even Playboy magazine. All this and he earned a spot on the Dean’s List, too.

Following his senior season at Tech, he was selected to play in the Blue-Gray Football Classic and Hula Bowl all-star games.

The late Ned West, longtime Georgia Tech sports information director, once told me, “Randy is the most fascinating, crowd-pleasing player we ever had at Tech.

Bill Lewis, former Tech backfield coach, said of Randy, “The only thing I had to do with him was make sure he showed up for the game. Anytime he got his hands on the ball he was a touchdown threat. He would have led the world in scoring but every opponent kicked away from him.”

In 1981, following a brief stint with the New Orleans Saints and six seasons in the Canadian Football League, Randy left the game and, following his father-in-law’s example, set out to become a chiropractor. He graduated from Life College in 1983 and opened a practice in Atlanta – in the same building as Smith. Randy and his wife, Missy, have two sons, Randy, Jr. and Kelley and one grandson, Austin.

Today, Randy has returned to Tech as official chiropractor for all student athletes. In fact, Tech is the only major university with a fulltime chiropractor on staff.

He is a member of the Georgia Tech Hall of Fame and the state of Georgia Sports Hall of Fame and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2002.

Even so, Randy says his biggest thrill came not from the accolades and ceremonies, but from “watching my son, Kelley, break my punt return record.”

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