CHAMPAIGN (WCIA) — What started as just a side comment in a press conference last October from Illinois football coach Bret Bielema, has turned into so much more.
“The law firm of Newton and Randolph, those guys, the way they played inside was just incredible,” Bielema said October 25, 2021, just two days after the Illini beat Penn State in nine overtimes.
A fan following, social media jokes and even a name, image and likeness deal have followed for Keith Randolph Jr. and Johnny Newton as a result of Bielema’s comments. And the two Illini defensive lineman have fully embraced their new titles.
“Harrington’s Law Firm, if you’re ever in trouble, go there,” Newton said when asked to give his best pitch for the NIL deal he holds with Randolph Jr.
The so-called ‘Law Firm’ has grown into way more than a passing comment, it’s now the identity of the Illini defensive line, anchored by the two former top recruits.
“That’s my boy, I love him,” Randolph Jr. said about Newton. “I hold him accountable, he holds me accountable. We bump heads sometimes, but that’s just how it is. That’s family.”
“At first I didn’t like Keith, I thought he was a pretty boy,” Newton joked. “I just feel like that aspect of wanting to be the best, wanting to great, it just made us connect more.”
Newton and Randolph Jr. are more than comfortable holding court in the pocket, combining for seven sacks and over 90 tackles, starting more than half the games a season ago. Together the two will make up the core of the D-Line and are poised to take a step forward in Year Two under defensive coordinator Ryan Walters.
“The chemistry between me and Keith is good,” Newton said. “We just know what each of us is going to do. He’ll take inside, I’ll go outside. I have his back when he needs contain, it’s good having someone you can trust right next to you.”
“Now I know what the coaches are expecting, now I know what my position coach is expecting, now I know what I’m expecting out of myself,” Randolph Jr. added. “Now I know what my teammates expect out of me and what I expect out of my teammates.”
The sky is the limit for both guys, who have big dreams of playing on Sundays next year. With preseason All-Big Ten honors leading into the season, opponents don’t want to be taken to court by ‘The Law Firm’.
“We have a huge chance to just change the way Illinois defensive line is looked at,” Newton said. “Hopefully we can change it to the best defensive line in the nation.”
Their first case in 2022 are the Cowboys, summoned to Memorial Stadium next weekend for the season opener.