Nu'keese is a Gator!

The Florida Gators took one step closer to achieving the goal set by head coach Urban Meyer to become the fastest team in America when Pahokee standout wide receiver Nu'keese Richardson decided to become a Gator.

One of the main reasons that Nu'keese Richardson picked the Gators was due to his outstanding relationship with his position coach Billy Gonzales and his special relationship with the head Gator himself, Urban Meyer.

"Coach Meyer is a real down to earth guy, he's real easy to talk with about certain things but more importantly than that he is a great COACH," Richardson said. "It's very important for me to have a great relationship with my position coach and with the bond that coach Gonzales and I have now I know that everything else will fall into place."

There was another reason that Richardson picked the Gators.

"I picked Florida because that's what I thought was the best fit for me," Richardson said. "I am very excited to get this decision out of the way so I can concentrate on winning another state title with my team and as the season goes on I can do the GATOR CHOMP when I score."

Arguably the state of Florida's top ranked wide receiver held more than 20 offers from the nation's top programs such as Florida, Michigan, Georgia, South Carolina and Southern Cal. In the end the chance to play in the Gators' spread offense and the relationship he has with those close to him made this an easy decision.

Over the past couple of months, I have had a chance to get to know those closest to him and none more so than his cousin Tyrone Clervan. Clervan has been a staple in his life ever since Richardson lost his mother at the age of 10. He has been living with his aunt Robbie Everett and grandmother Gloria Richardson ever since, but the bond he has with Clervan is the kind only brothers share. Richardson recalled how the relationship has grown over the years.

"Tyrone was real close with my mom because they went to school together," he said. "Ever since she passed away he has been in my life and helped me overcome her passing. He taught me to be a better person and a better man and to be strong for my brother and sister. He has taught me that life doesn't come easy but you have to go out and work for it. I use it every time on and off the field when I want something accomplished."

"I have always been in Nu'keese's life," Clervan said. "But the bond that we share now has evolved from a distant relative, to his coach and now his big brother. As a child he had such a strong bond with his mother and my role was secondary. Now, with the passing of his mother, I've been more of a support figure in his life. I felt it was my responsibility to shield him from the distractions that come with 'small town' life. I am extremely proud of him. His ability to make this decision now, shows maturity and responsibility. Further more, I believe that the recruiting process was wearing him out and me too. I'm just happy he's going to college and furthering his education."

Richardson spoke about those closest in his life.

Tyrone Clervan: "Tyrone has always been a father, brother and a coach to me on and off the field so he is really important in my life."

Robbie Everett: "My aunt is like a person who's always done and says the Right things and she has helped me overcome a lot of things that have gone on in my life."

Gloria Richardson: "Wow! Words can't explain this one. I mean she has been Through a lot and seen a lot. She took me and my little Sister and brother in her home and raised us and put up With us for so many years which truly shows me how Truly blessed we are."

Everything that Richardson does, he does for his family but especially for his mom. He takes with him the memories of playing football in the back yard as a little boy each time he steps on the field.

"I play the game of football with such passion and pain for my mom," he said. "I mean every time I step on the field the blood starts rushing through my body, My conscious starts speaking to me, memories of my mom when I was little go racing through my mind and I do everything I do for her. I know she would be extremely happy for me today."

To say that this is one of the most special days in Clervan's life would be an understatement.

"It is very gratifying for me to see the progress that he's made," he said. "It was very difficult for him as a sophomore to adjust to being seldom used. All his life, he was 'The Playmaker' on whatever team he played on. But at Pahokee, playmakers are in abundance. Even though you are as good as or even better than some of your teammates, you still have to be patient and make plays when you get the chance."

All the great ones have it, that one game, that one day when they and those around them truly understand the kind of potential that they posses. For Clervan that day was Richardson's first day in pads.

"From the first day in pads (in little league), I knew that he was special," Clervan said. "I remember one game in particular, he was playing a team in a larger weight category, and the quarterback ran a bootleg. Pete (Nu'Keese) came down from free-safety and put a hit on the quarterback so hard that it was frightening. Both players were injured. The quarterback was carried off, while Pete was able walk off the field. When Pete reached the sidelines were I was standing, he was holding his shoulder in pain. He had fractured his collar bone, but refused to admit or acknowledge the pain. Unlike any other player I have coached, he played with passion and with no regards to pain. Needless to say, he started the next week."

Richardson himself attributes one thing and one thing only to his competitive nature.

"It gets real intense on the football field," he said. "I might get hurt on one play and coach wants to take me out but I would never go out because I am so into the game. We compete in everything we do down here. It's just my nature and it comes from the type of environment that I live in everyday."

For Pahokee head coach Blaze Thompson that one day happened a little more recently.

"The first time I knew that Nu'keese was going to be something special was two years ago during a Muck Bowl when he took a punt off the bounce and running at full sprint ran for 30-40 yards got tackled (hard) but got up as if nothing happened and spent the rest of the game terrorizing their wide receivers while playing safety."

Coach Thompson in his second year as head coach knows more about football than most of us could only dream about knowing. Pahokee is working on a 28-game winning streak dating back to Leroy Fosters' tutelage. Under coach Thompson, Pahokee has won the Adidas 7-on-7 National Championship, been ranked as high as seventh nationally (all classifications), won back-to-back Muck Bowls against archrival Bell Glade, including the first win in Belle Glade since the late 80's and have won an unprecedented four of the last five state championships.

The first coming under his father (Don Thompson) in 1989, then in 2003, 2004, lost in the state finals in 2005 then went back to back in 06 and 07. Coach Thompson and his father were the first father and son combo to win a state championship at the same school.

Don Thompson is a legend at Pahokee; he not only coached them to their first state title in 1989 but played for Pahokee in the late 50's. After a coaching stint under Coach Pell he left to sell weightlifting machines but returned to his calling of coaching from 1984 through 1992. When the younger Thompson graduated college in 1993 the two started coaching again in the spring of 1995 and the rest as they say is history.

For those that are not familiar with the Muck Bowl between Pahokee and Belle Glade, Richardson had only this to say.

"All I will say is that game separates the boys from the men."

Pahokee has more than had its share of high profile players roam through its halls over the years. The most notable NFL players are Ricky Jackson, Andre' Waters and Anquan Boldin. Eric Moore, Ken Mosley and Kevin Bouie also spent time in the league. Some notable college players are Antone Smith(FSU), John Davis (FSU), Ronald Boldin(FSU), Alphonso Smith(Wake), Keyonvis Bouie(FIU), Demir Boldin(Wake), Kennard Burton(Troy),A ntonio Wison (Wake), Anthony Williams(USF), Richard Bryant (West Virginia), Lafane Williams (USF/Pitt), Ricky Gary (Pitt), Tamarcus Porter (Pitt), Johnathon Johnson & Andreal Johnson (Maryland), Jeremy Banks (Auburn) and Kenny Berry (UM)

Why is this important to know, because coach Thompson has been around one of most historic schools in the nation and is known for putting players at major Division I schools.

The Gators won an intense recruiting battle for last years star cornerback Janoris Jenkins and have won another one today with Nu'keese Richardson. What makes him a great player is his ability to put others before him as well as the team. Coach Thompson spoke about one example on this year's team that describes the essence of the kind of person that Richardson has become.

"His character has been evident for the last two years," Thompson said. "He's known that he can play but has waited his turn. He's been behind Martavious Odoms and Antavius Wilson knowing that if he got his shot that he'd shine, which he did every time. Again though, he knew that it was their turn. Now it's his time to shine. He also is a team player. He knows that in college he's going to be slot receiver but that we need him at quarterback. He was the first player to step up after the state game to say to the players that it's time to get back to work. He ran track getting bigger, faster and stronger. He knows that most of the recruiters coming to town want him, but he pumps up his teammates. He tries to help the second string quarterback get better to hopefully replace him there. He knows that the sooner that he can step in, he'll be able to get back to his rightful place, and yet he's being patient with him."

His lead by example attitude has become clear to Clervan as well.

"Nu'keese leads by example on and off the field. In the past, he was not much of a talker, but this year he is becoming more of a vocal leader and has accepted his leadership role with the team."

Spend anytime talking with Thompson, Clervan or Richardson himself and it's easy to understand why he is a perfect fit with what Meyer, Dan Mullen and Gonzales do from the offensive side of the ball. Clervan believes that it's a match made in heaven.

"I see Nu'keese filling the same position as Percy Harvin. The Gators use formations and schemes to create mismatches in the secondary. I think that Pete can be used in the same light. If he's used in the same manor as Percy and he continues to progress, he should prosper in their (University of Florida's) system. I think that his speed is his greatest asset. He can take a 'hitch' and turn it into an 80-yard touchdown. He is also elusive, but his speed is what sets him apart."

Coach Thompson spoke about Nu'keese Richardson's performance last night in the spring game.

"Nu'keese looked great at wide receiver, quarterback, return and defensive back. He had 140 yards passing and over 80 yards rushing and receiving. That's a second string quarterback that missed two touchdown throws to him wide open. He should have ended the game with over 100 yards receiving."

Robbie Everett (Aunt)

Can you describe how Nu'keese has grown and matured from the first time he came to live with you as a young boy to the point where he is now as a young man?

"Nu'keese has only lived with my family for two school terms but I've been involved with him since the beginning. He lost his mother at age eight - the beginning of his third grade school year. He lived with his grandparents but being at his elementary school I was able to watch him go through the grief process which gave us many opportunities to spend time together. By fifth grade he had become very involved in little league sports (basketball and football) sponsored by our city recreation department. This new focus seemed to have helped him not dwell on the loss of his mother. When he moved in with us during his tenth grade year he expressed a need to focus on improving his GPA and get ready for college. He has worked hard to define and redefine who he is as a young man and talented athlete. Sometimes I think he drives himself too hard."

How excited are you that he was able to get this decision not only out of the way but that he will be close to home playing at the University of Florida?

"The family is very excited. With this decision out of the way, he can focus on graduating and preparing to enter the next phase of his life. Being close to home will allow us to travel to his games and provide the support needed by our young men when they leave home for college the first time. So many times, this makes the difference in the long term success of student athletes. We also have family in the Gainesville/Daytona who look forward to having him near them."

When he plays his first college football game and comes running out of the tunnel what do you think will be going through your mind?

"That's our little boy. I frequently remember Nu'keese (age 3) sitting on his mother's lap or her playing with him when we visited them in Syracuse, New York. Although she's not with us we know that her spirit will be with him. Somehow, I just envision her smiling down on her first born as he ventures into the world of college athletics and adulthood."

What is your take on the recruiting process and how crazy it becomes at times?

"The recruiting process is intense and at times crazy. But, it gives you insight and choices. You have a chance to evaluate the programs up close. You're able to ask questions and check out the stats for the varying positions. Some questions we've asked are: what's the average number of receptions for a wide receiver at his top school choices or how many top receiver recruits are also being offered scholarships or what is the likelihood that he'll get red-shirted his freshman year?"

Gloria Richardson (Grandmother)

This is such an exciting time in your life to watch your grandson make this huge decision that most kids only dream of, what does it mean to you?

"It means a lot to me but I wish his mother could have been here to see him and share in this accomplishment."

When you think of Nu'keese what's the first thing that pops into your head and why?

"New York – New York pops into my mind constantly as I remember how he'd run from his mother trying to get to me or his grandfather when she disciplined him. He was a typical little boy who loved throwing. A family friend always teases about him throwing straight rocks when he was trying to hit a target. That accuracy has helped him become a better quarterback today."

Questions or comments? Contact's Jason Higdon

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