Nasty to Nuke

It's a safe bet that the No. 1 target of Florida boo-birds Saturday at The Swamp will be Tennessee head coach Lane Kiffin. It's a safe bet who their No. 2 target will be, too.

That would be freshman receiver Nu'keese Richardson. The 5-10, 165-pounder from Pahokee, Fla., committed to the Gators a year ago but reneged. Worse, he reneged in order to sign with the hated Volunteers.

So, what kind of greeting is he expecting the first time he trots onto the field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium?

"Not a nice one, I know that," he said. "It won't be a nice greeting."

He's right about that. No fans in the SEC are as openly hostile as Florida's, so he's sure to be bombarded with boos and abusive language this weekend. He's aware of this.

"I hear talk about it every now and then but it's nothing I can't handle," he said. "It's just people, fans, noise and the environment. I just feel like it's another game that I'm playing in."

When Richardson switched his allegiance from Florida to Tennessee last winter he incurred an immediate backlash from the Gator faithful. That backlash continues to this day.

"Oh, yeah, definitely," he said. "Me being from Florida, a lot of people still come around, still send me messages on FaceBook and stuff."

He insists that the angry response didn't surprise him.

"Not at all," he said. "I knew that being from Florida, to decommit from Florida and commit to Tennessee was going to draw a lot of attention to me. I was prepared for it."

Basically, he changed schools because he wanted to play for Tennessee's youthful and colorful first-year head man, Lane Kiffin.

"He's a great coach," Richardson said. "I wanted to come in, hopefully get a starting position and get ready to play."

Months before changing his mind, though, Richardson became close friends with fellow Florida commitment Marsalis Teague, a native of Paris, Tenn.

"Me and Marsalis were best friends before the Florida thing, so we'd been having conversations and stuff," Richardson recalled. "He told me he liked Florida; that's when I was still committed to Florida, so I was giving him information. That's how we hooked up, then we kept the connection going."

That connection was so strong that Teague also reneged on his commitment to the Gators in favor of a Vol scholarship. The two look back and chuckle about it now.

"We're roommates, so we talk about this every day," Richardson said. "It's crazy how him and me both ended up here when we both wanted to go to Florida. We talk about it and laugh about it."

Losing Richardson was especially aggravating to Florida's coaches, since he didn't bother to alert them he was signing with Tennessee.

"It (change of heart) was on Signing Day," he recalled, "and I wasn't taking no phone calls or talking to no one at that time."

Given all of the above, Florida fans are sure to heap loads of abuse on Richardson throughout Saturday's game. He says he couldn't care less.

"I don't worry about outsiders," he said. "I just try to do my job and do it to the best of my ability."

Inside Tennessee Top Stories