Iron Man receives his confirmation

BYU received a commitment on Sunday from Alta High School tight end and strong man Steven Richards, who embodies exactly the type of characteristics that BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall is looking for to represent his football program.

At 6 feet 4 inches and 240 pounds, Steven Richards not only has a big frame but a big heart filled with a lot of spirit. After receiving his BYU scholarship offer, Richards turned his focus inward to know what would be his best course of action.

"I had been attending the [Draper] temple and been praying about it since I got the offer," Richards said. "I went inside and did some baptisms for the dead and had a question in my heart. I just prayed about it when I was there.

"When I received the offer from Coach Mendenhall, I didn't immediately accept it because I needed to talk to my parents about it and figure out all my options."

On Sunday morning Richards awoke thinking it was just going to be a normal Sunday of worship.

"Today I was going to go to church and try and get some inspiration to figure this whole thing out," he said. "But before going to church today I got my answer.

"Well, this morning I woke up and said my morning prayer and, to get this whole thing finalized, I asked for some help," Richards continued. "Then I go up to go get some breakfast, and my mom was already awake and says, 'Steven, all we needed basically was an approval from your dad and we got that. Your father said that if you have a feeling to go play at college, then he supports your decision.' Right then everything was lifted off of my shoulders and I felt relief."

Excited that his family was all on board with his decision, Richards notified the Cougar coaches.

"I then sent a message to Coach Mendenhall and Coach Doman saying that I am committing to them and that I am going to BYU," said Richards. "I haven't actually spoken with them on the phone because it's Sunday and it's their day off. I'm going to try and get in contact with them later on the phone to try and give them a verbal commit."

Richards had felt deep in his heart that BYU was the place to be. However, he wanted to make sure both his mother and father were fine with his decision to accept the BYU scholarship offer.

"My mom was actually a true blue BYU fan, but then she started attending Utah," Richards said. "Then, of course, she became a Ute fan. My dad is the type that will support everyone in their decisions and actions. My dad is a Ute fan for my mom and a BYU fan for some of the kids that go there, and so my dad is a very nice, neutral supporter kind of guy.

"My mom actually came with me [during Junior Day] and it brought back a lot of memories of when she used to attend BYU, and then she got on board with me. This past day, my dad decided to go with what I was feeling and was on my side. That's when I finally sent a message this morning to Coach Mendenhall and Doman that I wanted to be a Cougar."

So given the fact that Richards' family was sympathetic towards Utah, why did they support his decision to commit to BYU? In the end it came down to one simple thing: religion.

"I definitely have Ute fans in my family," Richards said with a chuckle. "My family is very religious, and so when you get a feeling you have to act upon it. My family had gotten this feeling that I should go to BYU, and so I acted on it."

That affinity towards the Utes, however, will now change.

"Oh yeah, definitely," Richards said. "That will change now. I actually sent out a bunch of text messages to a bunch of my family that were Utah fans saying, 'I'm going to be going to BYU!'"

The response from Richards' Utah-supporting family members was very positive.

"They were all freaking out in a good way," Richards said with a laugh in his voice. "All of the responses I got back from them were congratulations and support for me in my decision. They all said that they were very supportive of me becoming a BYU Cougar."

His decision to commit to BYU came in large part because of what the school represents.

"What committing to BYU means to me is I now become something greater than just a part of a football program. I get to go to my religion's school and I get to be an example of my faith, my principles and what I believe in through football. When you put on a BYU helmet, pads and jersey, there is always a greater purpose to fulfill than just playing football, and that's why I absolutely love BYU football – because of what it stands for to the world."

So what will Richards bring to BYU?

"Off the field I feel that I can use my position as a BYU football player to bring greater service," Richards said. "I love doing service projects, and even though there is already a great and grand spirit to BYU's football team, I feel like I can bring some more of that spirit to the team off the field.

"On the field, I feel that I can be a leader and bring that nasty intensity and hard-work ethic. When I put on my helmet and pads, I'm ready to go hit somebody."

When he gets to BYU, the tenacious Alta tight end will switch to the defensive side of the ball to play a position he has barely any experience at: defensive end.

"I've never played defensive end as a high school athlete," Richards said. "I did in little league but never in high school. I've only played tight end, but at BYU they have me listed as a d-lineman. When I get there things might change, but they've offered me as a defensive end."

But what was it about Richards' abilities that made BYU coaches recruit him as a defensive end?

"What they told me was that I was extremely aggressive," Richards said. "They told me that I was fast, that I was quick. They also said that I have good hands, and the way that I move, they thought that I would be a great defensive end. So, that's where they put me.

"I love, love Coach Kaufusi!" Richards continued. "When he speaks, it's very calming and very instructive, but at the same time it's firm and authoritative. At the same time there's always that softness that comes after the intensity that shows support and confidence in what's expected of you."

Playing football at the college level might be a bit overwhelming for most making the jump, especially when switching to a new position. However, that isn't the case for Richards.

"It's not too overwhelming to me because I feel I can be molded into a great defensive end," Richards said. "I feel like I'm one of those players that no matter where you put me on the field, I'll be successful. And with coaches like Coach Mendenhall, I have full confidence that will be the case, and so if he and Coach Kaufusi want me to play defensive end, that's what I'm going to do for them."

While attending BYU's Junior Day, Richards was thrown into the fire during one-on-ones as a defensive end in addition to the work he did as a tight end.

"They had me do a lot of both [positions]," he said. "As a tight end, I killed it. It was awesome. As a defensive end, I did really, really well for having never played that position. I was beating all these offensive tackles who had been playing on the offensive line their whole life. That was a reassuring factor that I might actually be a good defensive end some day, because I was beating all these top athletes who had been working hard at their position and beating them."

So what was his secret? Simple. Richards' offseason workout regimen consists of an iron man workout.

"Part of my offseason training is working out with the American Fork strongman," Richards said. "It's basically like an iron man training program. We do a lot of heavy lifting.

"Basically what we did with the American Fork strongman is namely do all the lifts that people normally don't do, which means working out all the muscles that people normally don't do, to get an all-around training exercise that is phenomenal."

The iron man workout regimen that Richards performs consists of carrying a great deal of weight 50 feet up and down his street.

"We have what's called the yoke, and I got close to 700 pounds the other day," Richards said. "You carry it 50 feet uphill or downhill. I was able to carry 700 pounds about 15 feet.

"We also have an atlas stone, which is a spherical stone that weighs close to 250 pounds. There is also a river stone that weighs close to 275 pounds and I carry that 50 feet."

Richards' lower-body and core strength, accompanied with his speed and overall athletic ability, are why he is suited perfectly for the defensive end position.

"One of the reasons why they like me at the defensive end position is because of my work ethic and what I was doing off the field strength-wise," Richards said. "They felt it was better for me to become a power-hungry, hard-hitting and aggressive type player than a pass-catching tight end. My iron man offseason workout is basically what brought that out to the front."

Prior to graduating next year, Richards will turn 19. He will then hang up his helmet and cleats and put on a black nametag that will say "Elder Richards."

"My plans are to go right on a mission right out of high school," Richards said. "I turn 19 before I graduate. I will go on a mission right out of high school, then come back and play football for BYU."

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