I wrote a piece this week on ESPN.com about Crimson Tide running back Trent Richardson to kick off a 2012 NFL Draft series for Insider. You can read the story here.
This blog has been inactive for about two months now, and I wanted to try something new in order to get it going again. For the Richardson profile, I’m breaking out the first edition of Newsroom Cuts.
During the course of reporting a story, we usually obtain more information and anecdotes than we can use. We either have to slash the word count, narrow the focus or a perhaps a compelling quote or telling anecdote just doesn’t fit the topic or purpose of the story.
So Newsroom Cuts is a way to share that stuff with readers and create another option for discussing the story, discussing individual aspects, how it was put together, why certain choices in the story were made, whatever. It’s an informal thing, solely designed so you can enjoy information and stories that otherwise would be left in the notebook.
With that, I have two cuts from the Richardson profile I’d like to share.
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Before writing the story about Richardson, I read as much about him as I could. I dug through newspaper clips from Alabama papers and stories from national news outlets. I guess “surprised” isn’t the right word, but I thought it was interesting that almost EVERYTHING I read about Richardson was directly related to football. There are few stories out there about him that went deeper than football.
Even though I knew my story was a draft profile and not, say, a magazine feature, I spent a little time talking to Richardson about non-football topics. And I was floored by his responses, particularly to questions about his education.
As mentioned in the piece, Richardson is majoring in business real estate with a minor in women’s studies.
He said he became interested in business when he was a kid. His uncle owned a car dealership in Florida, and Richardson found work washing the cars at the dealership, keeping them sparkling for customers.
When he was done washing cars, Richardson would hang around and study how his uncle interacted with customers. He paid attention to how a sale was made, how a relationship was built.
“I liked to listen to how (the money) was made,” Richardson says.
Richardson said he took a liking to real estate when he got to Alabama, but the foundation of his interest in business was laid while washing cars.
When asked – somewhat facetiously, I should add — how in the world a running back ended up with a minor in women’s studies, Richardson opened up his heart and his mind.
The story starts as you may expect: Richardson arrived in Tuscaloosa as a big-time prospect, and the counselor who was putting together his fall schedule decided to fill a hole with a women’s studies class because it had earned a reputation as being one of the easier electives on campus.
What the counselor didn’t know, however, was that Richardson already had one daughter and would soon have a second. Richardson prepared for the women’s studies class with a different attitude than other athletes. The curriculum meant something personal to him.
“I was immediately interested in the class because I had a daughter of my own,” Richardson said. “But then once I started attending, I found out I really liked learning about the history of women.
“I want to know what women went through so I can better understand how my daughters will grow up.”
That quote is probably the most nuanced and mature I’ve ever received from an athlete only a year or two removed from being a teenager. For everything good about Richardson as a football player, the depth of him as a person deserves much more attention. And we can’t forget about a good sense of humor.
As our conversation was winding down, I jokingly asked Richardson if his women’s studies classes taught him how to respond as a father when his daughters start asking about boys and grown-up things.
“No!” Richardson howled, laughing. “When that happens, I’m gonna tell them to go talk to their momma!”
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“I want to be one of the best NCAA running backs ever.”
That’s what Richardson said when I asked him an open-ended question about goals.
Ron Dayne holds the NCAA career rushing record with almost 6,400 yards. Richardson enters Week 2 about 4,900 yards behind that.
With a long history of great college running backs, it may be difficult for Richardson to enter THAT conversation. And playing behind a Heisman Trophy winner for two seasons didn’t help his counting stats, either.
But Richardson could find himself among the all-time great Crimson Tide running backs before he heads to the NFL.
Shaun Alexander holds the career rushing record with 3, 565 yards, and Mark Ingram has the career rushing TD record with 42. Richardson should be in the Top-5 in yards and perhaps TDs before his junior season is complete (needs about 1,200 yards and 12 rushing TDs).
The kicker for Richardson: Alabama is a popular pick to win another national championship this season, and if it is in the running at the end of the season, Richardson will most likely be a Heisman finalist.
Richardson’s best-case resume looks like this: Top-5 career rushing yards, top-5 career rushing TDs, a Heisman trophy, two national championships. All of that done in three seasons while the first two were spent as the sidekick to another all-time great Bama back, and we haven’t even mentioned Richardson’s receiving yards/TDs (should be somewhere around 750-850 yards and 10 TDs by the end of the season).
Perhaps that doesn’t put Richardson in national conversation of best running backs ever, but I wouldn’t exactly call a legacy as one of the best players to ever pass through Tuscaloosa a consolation prize.
Reminder: you can read the full story on Trent Richardson on ESPN.com.
Teddy Mitrosilis is an Assistant Editor for ESPN The Magazine and ESPN Insider. You can follow him on Twitter here and reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.