The Education Of Ramon Richards

At Brackenridge High School in San Antonio, Ramon Richards was easily the most athletic member of his senior class. An all-district and all-area quarterback in football, he could also play virtually any other position on the field. He was all-district in basketball and qualified for state in the 4x400 meter relay team. His academics were strong enough to draw scholarship offers from Yale and Rice.

That is all good stuff but that is only the kind of resume that gets you into consideration when a veteran starting cornerback goes down with an ankle injury in the first Big 12 game, and it's Texas Tech that is on the docket and they are throwing every down with that "air raid" offense. It is what you do after that, not before, that decides if you measure up.

"I learned that the game comes with ups and downs," Richards said of his early indoctrination to playing corner in the spread-dominated Big 12. "Many times in a game when I would get beat, Kevin (Peterson) or Jordan (Sterns) would say, "It's okay, it's fine, just keep your head up because the moment you put your head down it's going to stay down. Keep your head up and keep playing and eventually you'll make a play.'"

Think about that, that's a whole lot easier to say than it is to follow through with. Ramon Richards is 6-0 and almost 190 pounds. He's confident, tries to be as that was the way he was raised and coached through high school but the "rookie" is out there playing the position they often refer to as "being on the island" against teams with receivers like Kevin White at West Virginia, Bradley Marquez at Texas Tech, Kolby Listenbee and Josh Doctson at TCU, Tyler Lockett at K-State, Corey Coleman and Antwan Goodley at Baylor, and Sterling Shepard at OU.

Now that is pretty daunting for a freshman that played only a little defense the season before in high school.

He needed help and he got it from one of the best corners in college football and the Big 12, even if postseason honors voters, including coaches, didn't give him proper credit as Kevin Peterson shut down about every receiver he faced this season except for All-American Tyler Lockett.

Peterson knew he needed to be a big brother when Richards was thrown in the first against Tech after the injury to Lampkin, a teammate that is like a brother to him.

"He has come a long way," Peterson said of Richards. "He had never played corner before, really never played much defense before. I just tell him since he got here that he's a hard worker and he doesn't get nervous and plays good technique and he gets better and progresses game in and game out.

"He got thrown into the fire early, just like (quarterback) Mason (Rudolph) got thrown in the fire late. Congratulations to him for surviving it and getting better. He was up to the challenge."

There were more plays to forget than to remember early on, but he did get a pick late in the Texas Tech game. Then against Kansas State he ripped off a pass on a good read and ran through taking the ball and going to the house for a touchdown.

"It was kind of big because it was my first pick six of my college career, but at the same time we were losing so I couldn't get too excited," Richards said. "At the end of the day it was exciting to get my first pick six."

On the first play of the game in Bedlam, an injured but always respected and dangerous Sterling Shepard lined up on him. Shepard came out and tried to intimidate the freshman, but found he was all grown up.

"Yes sir, I have got more confident. When I first got thrown into the games in the early season I saw myself as a freshman and when you play this game you can't see yourself like that. Everybody that is out here are collegiate athletes and we all came out here on scholarship and I had to believe that I'm a college player just like they are and be competitive," he said.

In the middle of his first interview as a collegiate player, one of his tutors on the field in Peterson even worked to un-nerve him a little in the media situation, but Richards didn't flinch. In fact, he jumped right in and dished back a little.

Peterson came up and asked a question right there in the midst of the reporters, "You haven't been here that long but you've seen a whole lot of faces around here, so who would you say the most handsome dude in the locker room would be?"

"Besides myself," Richards asked back. "That's a hard one," he continued playing right along with his mentor at cornerback on the other side of the defense. "Ooooh, I can't say that," Richards joked thinking of an answer that he held back on.

We never got the answer on that handsome dude and Peterson was obviously fishing for some "GQ" credit from his protege but what Peterson has received and what Oklahoma State's defense and team has received is some really good play at corner from a "pup" that started last summer almost from scratch.

"The first game I had to get my feet wet and the first couple of games I was playing not to get beat rather than playing to win," Richards admitted. "That is how you have to play. Now, I want to play every game, every play to win, and the first play I want to set the tone and let that receiver know I'm here."

He's here and for awhile, Ramon Richards is at corner to stay.

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