Adversity is simply an opportunity to grow, not only as a person, but as player. That stands true not only in sports, but in general. Some people face challenges and hardships head-on. Others allow it to take the wheel of their life.
Pro Player Insiders had an opportunity to catch up with a draft prospect who’s faced his share of adversity but consistently came out on the winning side — Colorado WR Paul Richardson. During his career at Colorado University, Richardson scored 20 career touchdowns — averaging a ridiculous 41.8 yards per score.
“I’m 21 from Los Angeles, California,” said Richardson. “I was primarily raised by my whole family, pretty much. I have three brothers and I’m in the middle. I have an older brother and two younger brothers that are twins. I’ve been playing football, basketball and baseball since I was two-and-a-half years old… three years old at the park.”
Although Richardson made a name for himself at Colorado, his journey began as a Bruin at UCLA. He was dismissed from the team prior to the 2010 season, but was able to land on his feet at Colorado University.
“My transition to Colorado was fluid,” said Richardson. “I basically turned a negative situation into something really positive; as far as mentoring little kids in the inner city of Denver, about 30-40 minutes away from Boulder. I helped with this non-profit group against domestic violence against woman. It helped me a lot. It helped me as far as getting to Colorado. I was able to flourish and help put that program back on the map.”
Paul Richardson played in 12 games that year, catching 34 receptions for 514 yards and six touchdowns. He went on to establish himself as a play maker and team captain for the Buffaloes.
In 2012, Richardson faced another adverse situation — an ACL tear. He was forced to miss the entire 2012 season after ACL surgery. But even then, the injury wasn’t enough to keep him away from football.
“In less than three months I was running,” said Richardson. I told my doctors before I even had my surgery — ‘if I can walk, then I’m going to be able to run.’ Then I was like, ‘if I’m running, then I’ma run routes.’ Everyone kind of laughed at me. So as soon as I was able to take the resistance off the metal brace I had on my leg, so it wouldn’t bend my leg, I started running. I was like three-and-a-half, four months out of surgery jogging through routes. So by the time the season came, Coach Embree allowed me to practice with the offense scouting team to get our starting defense ready for the games throughout the year. I didn’t play, but I practiced full speed and I would warm up with the team in full pads in like the second half of the season. It didn’t deter me at all. My injury and my surgery and that whole process of recovery was just motivation.”
Although he was unable to play in 2012, Richardson’s quick recovery allowed him to continue molding his game. In 2013, Richardson returned with a vengeance and had the most productive season of his collegiate career. Richardson caught a career-high 79 receptions for 1,280 yards and 10 touchdowns. He was explosive, electrifying and went on to be named Colorado’s Most Valuable Player.
Paul Richardson was able to prove he’s healthy in his last season at Colorado. Now the 6ft, 175 lbs receiver has to prepare his body for the NFL.
“I’ve never had my body go through such training,” Richardson said of his pre-draft preparation. “It was quite the process. As far as training, basically it was just working on different muscle groups that I’ve never worked on before — preparing for combine specific things. I was blessed with the opportunity to go perform at the combine. So I did a lot of combine specific things — making sure I’d be able to pass all my physical exams and be able to handle myself in all the drills that I competed in. So, that process was great. Now I’m at the point where I’m just training and going on visits with different teams; having private workouts with different coaches and different NFL teams to better my chances and secure my spot to get drafted as early as I can.”
The 2014 NFL Draft could quite possibly be the deepest in over a decade. One of the more loaded groups is this year’s crop of wide receivers. There’s a bit of every flavor at the receiver position in this draft. You have the bigs, vertical threats, yard-after-catch guys, etc. But Paul Richardson believes his unique skill-set could set him apart. “There’s a lot of players that can play outside. Then there’s a lot of people who can play inside and slash. I think me being able to play all the receiver spots is gonna help me be able to keep myself on the field at the next level.”
Richardson continued, “I think what I bring to the table is being able to score with the ball at any time and from anywhere on the field. A lot of guys are just downfield guys and they catch deep posts and they catch fades and they run under balls for touchdowns… But they can’t do that the same way they catch a three yard out or a six yard hitch and go 75-yards downfield out running people’s angles and flying through the defense. I think that I’m fortunate to be gifted enough to be able to do those things downfield and to take an underneath pass and go the distance.”
There’s numerous of comparisons floating around for Paul Richardson. However, he says there’s not necessarily a player he emulates. “People try to compare me to Marvin Harrison and DeSean Jackson — guys like that who were fast and can run routes,” he said. “So, I appreciate those comparisons.”
In my personal film study, one thing I enjoyed about watching Paul Richardson is the way he utilizes his feet. I haven’t seen a receiver with feet movement skills like that other than former Cincinnati Bengals WR Chad Johnson (Ochocinco). That’s who I’m reminded of when watching Richardson.
Paul Richardson described how he utilizes his feet to get-off the line of scrimmage. He made it sound easy when it really isn’t. “Me being a defensive back my whole life helps me more with being a receiver,” he said. “So I know when you engage a corner, he has to react to you. I try to come forward to try and get the defender to make a move on me and I just counter his move with my feet as best as I can… And I’m moving my arms at the same time because the faster you move your arms, the faster your legs will go. So, yeah, Chad Johnson does a great job of doing it. I’ve never seen anybody with feet like Chad Johnson and quickness like him. Especially because he’s not a 5’9 receiver. So for him to have feet like that, you really wouldn’t expect it. But yeah, that’s basically what I try to do. I try to not let it turn into a muscle match and try to release as quick as I can to get downfield and make a play on the ball.”
Paul Richardson wins with his feet. He’s overcome adversity and he’s an explosive football player. The big question is if he’ll be able to stay healthy in the NFL. He’s a bit lanky, but he’s a natural playmaker. I think the way NFL teams are spreading the field these days, it benefits Richardson. His foot quickness will make him a threat day one. Richardson will be a value pick for an NFL club. He’s a guy who has proven to learn from mistakes, overcome adverse situations and he’s just scratching the surface of his athletic ability.
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