Alabama fans have been having a difficult time trying to figure out just who the man the NFL’s version of Trent Richardson has become as he has been a far cry to what they had grown accustomed to seeing on Saturdays. In 2012, Richardson was taken by the Cleveland Browns with the No. 3 overall pick in the NFL Draft and while his rookie season was not spectacular, his 950 yards rushing and 12 touchdowns suggested he was on his way to being a perennial running back in the league and a possible franchise saver for the Browns.
However, his time was cut short quickly as he was traded away the following year to the Indianapolis Colts in what seemed like a sure come up for Richardson escaping the depths of despair of a franchise such as the NFL’s doormat Browns.
While Richardson was able to go to a playoff contender, his contribution to the team seemed null as he never quite solidified a role in the backfield as the main guy. If you ask many Alabama fans, one thing was quite evident and that was the size of Richardson since his departure.
For anyone who has followed Alabama and Richardson, they realize he has always been a freak athlete and one who was enamored with the weight room. Now, for most coaches, this is a desired trait as becoming bigger, faster, and stronger has long been valued as the key components for football players in their offseason regiments.
However, the plan was not to become a professional bodybuilder and for the past three seasons, Richardson looked more like a person competing for Mr. Olympia rather than a top-tier running back in the NFL. Many analysts seemed to point out the fact that Richardson often lacked explosiveness and quickness and the fact he has yet to average more than 3.6 YPC or have a run longer than 32 yards is embarrassing for one who was compared to Adrian Peterson coming into the league.
If there is any consolation though, it appears what was once lost has now been found according to Oakland Raiders offensive line coach Mike Tice who stated recently, “I thought the young man out of Alabama (Richardson) came on. He lost some weight, his quickness came around.” This is huge news for a player who displayed elite athleticism in college and is struggling to find his way in the pros. However, while regaining his quickness is great, it was an intangible asset that Richardson lost in 2013 that is far more valuable and one that if goes unfound will keep him out of the league for good.
For what seems like an eternity now, the term swagger has been overused as much as bling-bling in the 90’s to the point its luster is drowned out by the intent of the word. Nevertheless, the word itself is apropos to this situation and for Richardson as the confidence and attitude he carried in 2011 reverberated across the nation and was enough to garner serious consideration for the Heisman trophy.
When one considers himself a superstar, and knows he is — there is a certain aura that glows similar to the way Charlie Murphy felt when he first saw Rick James.
That’s what Richardson had.
While his voice was not boisterous or grandiose in nature — when he spoke, his tone was filled with esteemed confidence and calmness knowing he was the best player on the field and there was nothing anyone could do to stop him.
This is the Richardson that must show up in the preseason and regular season for the Raiders. The Richardson that knew before the draft that he would be a top 5 pick. The Richardson that ran 76 yards through the entire Ole Miss defense for a spectacular Heisman moment almost as if he drew it up that way.
The talent and ability that Richardson showed in college has not diminished, but the spirit within him did. His humble smile and confident demeanor have to return to the norm as that is what made him so special at Alabama. While reports have been promising, he still has much more to go to prove to himself and to the rest of the league that he is not the bust he’s being labeled as.
The time starts now for Richardson. Here’s to a bounce back season and career.