Vic Boblett has enjoyed a long and distinguished career in coaching.
"I've been very fortunate, very blessed. I've had lots of great kids and great assistant coaches. I had administrations that thought football was important. Thirty-six years, and I managed somehow not to get fired somewhere. I must be doing something okay.
"This is my 21st year at Rock Island. I was the head coach at Geneseo for four years. The four years before that, I was defensive backfield coach for Bob Reed at Augustana. Before that, I was the defensive coordinator at Geneseo. I played high school ball at Geneseo; Bob Reed was my high school coach."
His final Rock Island team had its ups and downs, finishing 5-4 after beating Quincy to give him a 170-59 career record with the Rocks. He could have gone out on a better note a year earlier, but he cared too much about his team. He wanted to prepare his youngsters so the next coach would have a head start on success.
"We struggled. Most years we've been a pretty solid program; we're usually in the state ratings or at least in the hunt for post season. This year, for the first time in a long time, we've had back-to-back average groups. Both our junior and senior groups were like 4-5 as sophomores and then struggled all the way through.
"We had a great group last year, and I could have retired with that group. But we knew this group had a chance to struggle. We've been in every game, right down to the wire with everyone we've played.
"Knowing we had a chance to struggle this year, it would be a lot easier for me to endure that than to hire a new coach, and his first year in he has a really bad year and they're ready to run him out of town. It wouldn't have been his fault.
"So I thought this would be a good year for us to play through that, play a lot of sophomores. When a potential candidate for our job sees Brandon Richardson and five other sophomores who are starting and playing great, what a great attractant that's gonna be. That's why we stayed on this year.
"We're all juniors and sophomores in our backfield, and we're starting four sophomores on our defense right now. They're all gonna be great players, so the future is bright."
Richardson is the real deal. The 5'-10", 170 pounder accumulated 1598 yards and 18 touchdowns. He averaged about 10 yards a carry.
Boblett wasn't surprised by Richardson's success.
"He was a freshman on the state champion 4 X 100 relay team last year, so he's got wheels. He's very quick. He's got the speed and agility that, once an opening happens, he can be full speed in a step and a half. But what is really unique about him is that he has great vision.
"In our style offense, typically we'll tell running backs 'Run the hole. Get through the hole and then look for openings.' But he's a kid you don't tell him anything. He might stop dead still in the hole, and you never know where the play is gonna hit. You don't discourage him from doing that. He'll find where the crease is."
He's already drawing comparisons with former Rock Island star running back Alonzo Wise. Boblett says he isn't there yet but will be in that rarified air before he graduates.
"He's doing things now as a sophomore that Alonzo Wise didn't do. He's still got a ways to go. Alonzo was one of those special kids too."
Colleges including Illinois are taking notice of Richardson.
"Yeah, his name is out there. He's just scratching the surface right now. I'm sure he's gonna get a lot of good looks."
Boblett is also excited by his five other sophomores.
"DayQwon Jones is starting in our secondary right now. He's a kid that as a freshman last year, ran a 50 flat quarter for our track team. You don't see that very often. He's gonna be a really good one.
"Erinnd Blanco has been starting for us. Quinton Holmes, a receiver, has been starting for us. Brett Livingston is a 6'-2"-6'-3", 245 pound sophomore defensive lineman for us. James Morrow is a 195 pound sophomore linebacker that's a real hitter."
Boblett also provided an update on his massive senior tackle Brad Steger, who attended an Illinois summer camp but probably won't be recruited by them.
"He's doing well. He's pretty much dominating the guys across from him. We're normally a two platoon team, but because we're struggling we actually let him play some nose guard last week, and he absolutely destroyed the center.
"He's been going to different schools every weekend. He's a project. He's 6'-7" and 335, and I don't know if he can grow a hair on his face yet. I swear, his feet are 24 inches long. If he ever grows into his feet, he's gonna be a monster. He has decent feet for a big guy.
"I think when the hormones finally kick in on him, he's gonna be something. But because the hormones haven't kicked in totally yet, I think he's a project in terms of a Division 1-A type school. They'd have to take him on and redshirt him and develop him.
"I think for the 1-AA schools like Western and Illinois State, he might be a frontline guy. He'd be a backburner guy for the larger schools."
Boblett will no doubt be missed at Rock Island, but he's leaving his team with plenty of talent for the new coach to showcase. And Richardson will likely be one of the top backs in the state before his high school career is over.