When Michigan came knocking at Baton Rouge (LA) Central with a scholarship offer for James Richardson last month, the speedy youngster was excited by the prospect of suiting up for such storied program. Soon, thoughm that feeling was mitigated by thoughts of how far away from home Ann Arbor is. When he began hearing harrowing tales about frigid weather conditions, playing college football at the Big House seemed less and less like a good idea. That was until he made it up to Michigan to see it for himself.
"The weather wasn't bad," Richardson said surprisingly. "Honestly, down in Louisiana you get all kinds of stories about how the weather is up there, but the weather was good. The visit was great. I enjoyed myself and my family did too. Honestly, it is pretty far away and that was probably one of the main reasons that kept me from coming. But I got my momma onboard now. She likes it as well. My stepdad and my dad probably like it as well, so I'm good with Michigan."
The fact that Richardson & company were on hand for a sporting spectacle the magnitude of which no college fan had ever seen only served to enhance the experience.
"That was great," said Richardson of the ‘Big Chill at the Big House.' "I've never been an environment like that. It was beyond amazing. Man it was crazy!"
Add in the attention from his Michigan player hosts and the knowledgeable recruitniks at the Big House, and the task making the visit an unforgettable one was one step closer to becoming reality.
"It was cool hanging with the players," said Richardson. "Carvin (Johnson) was my host. We had all kinds of fun. We were just laughing, joking, chilled throughout the town. It was nice. The players were cool. You see these people on TV and you have a perspective about them until you see them in real life… then you're like, ‘oh man they're cool!' Then the fans, I was getting pictures taken everywhere with Denard Robinson other players that I was with (at the game). I felt like a celebrity. We were getting our pictures taken and sign autographs. I felt like a star."
All that pomp and circumstance and yet a more unassuming and common aspect of the visit left an indelible imprint.
"It was (interacting with) Coach Rodriguez," Richardson said regarding stood out most on the trip. "The man is cool. He means everything that he says. He is not going try to get over on you like the other coaches. All the other coaches were like ‘schedule this,' ‘schedule that.' If you need him just tell him you need him and call him. He's a really cool man. I could tell the coaching staff was good people (also). They seem sincere with the stuff that they were saying. For my family that was the main thing."
When talking football, Rodriguez painted a very clear picture of a path to playing time for the Bayou star. However, he stopped far short of making any promises.
"They're not going to give you playing time," Richardson said matter-of-factly. "Maybe they do with other players, but they didn't guarantee me any playing time. They told me if I come in and do what I got to do, they've got a need for cornerbacks. If I come in and do what I have to do, I can play. I just got to play the part."
After the Wolverines made such a profound impression on the SMU commitment, the obvious question is has Michigan surged to the top of his list?
"Honestly, I'm going to be real with you… I know Michigan is a better program, bar none," Richardson admitted. "Both school's educational backgrounds are great. I know Michigan's football background is better, but I like both schools. It's going to be a hard decision."
In this instance having what a youngster considers to be a better program isn't enough to win him over. That's because the rampant speculation about Rich Rodriguez's job status has given him serious pause.
"They didn't touch (the topic)," Richardson stated. "(Rodriguez) talked about it a little bit. He said that he is not going nowhere, but that's why I want to wait to January 1st… to make sure that everything is cool. If he ain't going nowhere…. I'm not going to say he is not going to stay, but I just want to make sure. I wouldn't say that (Rodriguez being let go) would move them off my list, but it would drop them down."
While he waits to see how things shake out in Ann Arbor Richardson plans to mull over all of the other factors that will play into his final decision. While there's a slim chance he will take further visits, he plans to aim most of his recruiting focus at Michigan and SMU. If his current feelings stand the test of time, the Wolverines may be very tough to beat.
"I'm looking at how will they treat me… is it family like?" explained Richardson. "It's the main thing with both schools that's why I have both schools so highly. It is just like home. I know Michigan is so far away, but we bonded with the coaches like we were up there 30 or 40 years! If they were putting on a front, they put on a good front (laughter)."