Richardson Enjoying The Journey

With a father that played college football at East Carolina, Wes Richardson knew in his heart he wanted to play football at the highest level. While others may have doubted his ability, Richardson and his father knew he had the talent and just needed to show it. Cincinnati was the lucky choice and the Bearcats have rewarded the Columbus (Ohio) native with a scholarship.

Bearcats redshirt sophomore Wes Richardson didn't have the easy path to college football many of his teammates enjoyed. While many of the scholarship Bearcats have enjoyed the luxury of having all their schooling paid for, Wes and his parents had to write the checks and look for all the different programs available for Wes to achieve his goal of playing BCS football.

"It's been a pretty far journey that I've came from. Walking-on and not even knowing if I'd ever be able to walk-on at first. Now I'm backing up a possible NFL player."

For those players who chose the path of a walk-on, the journey is one of highs and lows. But love of game and the winner's desire power the strong to continue the good fight towards earning a scholarship.

"I just love the game of football and always have, I've have been playing it since the first grade and it's just instilled into me. My father played college football and I've got a strong desire to play."

While walk-ons each have their own story, many are late bloomers in their athletic careers. For Richardson, football success came at the end of his product prep career at Olentangy (Ohio) Liberty High School. Did college coaches seek out the defensive back with scholarship offers?

"No not really. I didn't really start varsity until midway through my junior year. Then my senior year, I had a come out year and just started doing the recruiting on my own by sending out film and visiting with different coaches. "

One of those coaches was University of Cincinnati's Mike Elston.

"I remember coming here and seeing Coach Elston. He was really surprised I hadn't been offered by the many MAC schools already. That showed me he had a lot of respect for me by just watching my film and making such a comment."

Wes has bought into Brian Kelly way and has learned the small things are just as important as those that happen on the field.

"I've learned a lot. I've always been a hard worker, but you've got to work smart in college football and can't beat your body down and workout all the time. You've got to eat right, get the right amount of sleep and do the small things that many don't think about."

One area Wes has found very helpful is the chance to learn from those who have taken their career to the next level.

"It's definitely a big help when you have four defensive backs in the NFL right now. When you get a chance to watch them prepare in practice and take care of themselves it has really helped in the way I prepare for a game."

As for any walk-on, the journey has its ups and downs. Looking back Wes knows without support his dream of playing college football could already be over with.

"Looking back on it now, the number one thing was just sticking with it. You have the highs and lows, the good days and bad days. Some days you just feel like giving up and wonder if it's really worth it because you're not getting paid for it and you're taking your own time out of the day to chase the dream. I love the game of football and because of my dad was staying in my ear and keeping my head right I've been able to survive. My dad was telling me to keep my head in it and I would get the paper one day."

That day did come and what was it like and how did Wes react?

"It was one of the happiest days since I've been in college. Coach Kelly pulled me out of meetings and told me and I ran and told my dad and we were both on cloud nine."

And was there those who doubted Wes could reach his dream?

"Everyone has a few doubters and I'm not one to rub it in their face now, but I've proven I could do what I set out to do." Now they are calling wanting tickets to games.

As with defensive backs before him, Wes knows he's getting high level coaching from Kerry Coombs.

"Coach Coombs is a great coach. He's a great motivator and pushes you to make you work harder than you think you can. Just look at the products he's placed in the NFL with four in the league now and a possible couple of more that are playing here now."

With two solid players on the field ahead of him, Wes knows and believes in "Next Man In" and makes sure he's prepared to take the place of players ahead of him.

"I'm always looking for the opportunity to get on the field so I study Aaron Webster and Drew Frey and watch how they play and learn from them. That way when my name is called I'm ready to shine."

The past two seasons have allowed Wes to be on the field for some big games. How does coming from high school to college compare on game day?

"My biggest crowd in high school was a playoff game my junior year against Avon Lake. We played at Freemont Ross and coming out onto the field with all the fans yelling gets you pretty motivated to play. So when you get a crowd as large as what we had on Saturday, you know you're going to be ready to play and have a fun day."

Wes Richardson is another example of why Brian Kelly has seen the success he's enjoying at Cincinnati and with his "Next Man In" game plan.

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