Monday, June 03, 2013

SPORTS STORY >> Red Devil heading to Fayetteville

Leader sports editor

Recently graduated Jacksonville Red Devil Kevin Richardson begins his career as an Arkansas Razorback when he reports to Fayetteville on June 29.

Richardson officially decided to walk-on as a wide receiver for the Razorbacks instead of accepting a scholarship from other schools as a defensive safety.

While turning down scholarship offers, including one that exceeded $100,000 from Harding University, was a very tough decision, Richardson said the reasons were two fold.

“Well I’ve always wanted to be a Razorback,” said Richardson. “That’s been my dream since I was little. Plus they wanted me to play wide receiver and that’s where I want to play. The other schools were looking at me as a safety and I really didn’t want to play defense. I love having the ball in my hands.”

The two-time All-State selection admits, though, that if Arkansas wanted him as a safety, he’d probably have gone elsewhere.

“If it came down to walking on at Arkansas as a safety, or going somewhere else on scholarship as a safety, I’d probably be going somewhere else,” Richardson said.

Richardson first caught the attention of Arkansas coaches at last year’s FCA combine at North Little Rock High School. Then offensive coordinator Paul Petrino liked Richardson’s speed, 4.4 seconds in the 40-yard dash at the combine, and precise route running ability.

He kept in touch with Richardson until the Razorbacks’ season began to fall apart and recruiting, not just of Richardson, but altogether, practically ceased. Petrino and the rest of the staff knew they wouldn’t be at the U of A next year, and focused on future employment instead of future Razorbacks.

Richardson’s speed and ability are SEC level, but his size is the main reason he was passed on by other major Division I schools.

Right at 6-feet tall, he says he is up to 160 pounds, but played most of his high-school career at around 150. 

Richardson, with the help of family and friends, most notable older brother Airic Hughes, made a late promotional push to get his name out among larger schools, focusing heavily on Arkansas.

Hughes, a former Jacksonville basketball player, UA graduate with a bachelor or arts degree in history, and current assistant director of the UA Student and Young Alumni Association, helped put together and highlight film and became a vocal advocate for Richardson on campus.

The Razorback coaching staff liked the film enough to send new tight end coach and director of recruiting for in-state talent Barry Lunney Jr. to Jacksonville to meet with Richardson, his family and the Jacksonville coaching staff.

“He said they had already signed two receivers and didn’t have any scholarships left because it was so late,” Richardson said. “But they wanted me to walk on and told me I had a really good chance of earning a scholarship. They lost a lot of receivers last year for different reasons and they think I have the ability to help.”

Richardson didn’t give an immediate answer. He knew there was real money waiting on him at other schools. But after visiting the campus, attending spring practice and sitting in on position and team meetings, he made up his mind.

“I loved everything about it,” Richardson said. “I loved the atmosphere, being on the field. I’ve just always wanted to be a Razorback and I got a little taste of it. I sat in on a receivers’ meeting, and there were only six or seven receivers in there. So I feel like I have a good chance of working my way into a scholarship.”

At such a light weight for the SEC, Richardson expects to be red shirted his first year. He is also aware that receivers won’t be quite as prominent in new coach Bret Bielema’s offense as they were in Petrino’s, but isn’t deterred by that fact, primarily because his main goal isn’t football related.

“I’d love to be able to take football to the next level, but the first goal I have for going up there is that I’m going to graduate,” Richardson said. “Even if I can keep playing, I’m going to graduate.”