"Mizzou felt like family."
Sheldon Richardson could have waited. Surely the massive rising junior tight end-defensive end from Gateway Tech (Mo.) High would have had a laundry list of major conference football programs chasing him for the next year-and-a-half. So why, then, did the gifted 6-foot-3, 280-pounder decide to commit to the University of Missouri so early in the game?
"I'm basically a family oriented person and I needed to see if Missouri felt like family – not just the coaches, but the players, too," Richardson said of his recent visit to Columbia for a camp. "They treated me like I was already part of the team and already part of the family."
Richardson is a major pickup for the Mizzou staff, lead St. Louis recruiter Cornell Ford in particular. The Tigers haven't had the recruiting success they'd like to have in St. Louis, which made Richardson's pledge that much more enjoyable; he's regarded by many to be among the top players in state in the Class of 2009.
His commitment, of course, is non-binding, and he can't sign a National Letter of Intent for well more than a year. He said of his commitment: "I'm not 100 percent sure, but I'm 85 percent sure, so that's a pretty solid chance right there.
He added that when other recruiters come around, he'll tell them: "I'm committed to Mizzou."
Richardson runs a 4.8-second 40-yard dash but will improve upon that as he cuts weight. He's hoping to get down to about 260 and maintain that wait until he gets to Mizzou, where he's being expected to play defensive end. Last year he caught eight touchdowns on offense and recorded 70-plus tackles and seven sacks on defense.
Indiana and Kansas State has already begun to recruit Richardson. But after visiting MU and spending time with fellow St. Louis natives Will Franklin and Jeremy Maclin, he felt like it was the perfect place to be.
"They told me the ups and the downs, and it didn't seem like there were really any downs," he said, adding that he's been a diehard Mizzou fan for years.
So he called up head coach Gary Pinkel earlier this week and made the early pledge, to Pinkel's surprise.
"He was surprised," Richardson said, "very surprised."
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