Damarious Randall is a long way from home. The sophomore safety was raised in Pensacola, Florida, and is one of seven players on the Arizona State roster from the Sunshine state. His journey to Arizona State was far from normal.
After graduating from Pensacola High School in 2010, Randall played baseball at Butler Community College in El Dorado, Kanas. He played shortstop, even though his coaches wanted him in the outfield because of his speed.
"I had the hands to play shortstop but everybody wanted to move me to centerfield," said Randall with a smile.
The 6-foot, 185-pound defensive back spent more than two years out of football before moving to the valley with a family member where he quickly found a home on the gridiron at Mesa Community College.
"My brother got a house out here in Tempe and I just came out here to live with him," said Randall. "I was sending my film out and Mesa was the first school to call and offer me a scholarship."
In 2012, Randall's only year of junior college football, he tallied 69 tackles, nine interceptions and averaged over 18 yards per punt return. He was named an NJCAA First Team All-American and the Arizona Community College Athletic Conference Defensive Player of the Year.
After just one season at MCC, Randall had more than a dozen major college scholarship offers, including Louisville, Oklahoma, Nebraska and TCU. In the end, Randall elected to stay in Arizona and wear Maroon and Gold.
"I fell in love with coach Graham," said Randall, who was ranked as the seventh best junior college cornerback in the nation by ESPN recruiting. Like Jaelen Strong and Marcus Hardison, Randall was ranked inside the ESPN JUCO top 100, coming in at No. 62.
Another element that drew Randall to Arizona State was the depth chart, with Keelan Johnson graduating the Sun Devils were left with a void in their secondary that Randall believed he could fill right away.
However, just a few days into fall practice, Randall suffered a groin injury that limited him throughout camp and caused him to miss the early part of the season.
"I was taking a lot of mental reps, trying to learn the defense from the sidelines," said Randall. "I was out there in my head but I just couldn't physically be out there."
After missing almost one-third of the season, Randall made his first start of the year against Notre Dame in AT&T Stadium on national television. It was a surreal feeling.
"On Friday I walked into the stadium and my stomach flipped, knowing that I was going to start in a stadium like that" said Randall. "Once I made my first tackle on the opening kickoff everything just started to settle down and I just started playing football."
He played football pretty well that day, leading Arizona State with 17 tackles in a 37-34 loss to the Irish. Last week against Colorado, Randall had three tackles and an interception he returned 26 yards leading to an Arizona State score.
"I have always been a guy to just stay around the ball and make plays," said Randall, who says he tries to model his game after Matt Elam and Ed Reed.
He has come a long way since his days playing at Pensacola High School. From the baseball diamond in Kansas to the not so bright lights of Mesa Community College, Randall has now made himself at home on the football field in Tempe.
His journey as a Sun Devil is just beginning.