Baylor University Bears
Fort Worth, Texas
North Crowley High School
Baker High School
L.B. Landry High School
Hurricane Katrina uprooted Richardson's family during his high school freshman season and he was forced to move from his beloved town of Algiers, La. Looking back at what happened immediately after the storm, the Baylor Bears standout can only count his blessings that he was able to find an eventual home.
Hurricane Katrina triggered a circuitous journey through three high schools in two different states that made him invisible to most recruiters. Richardson spent a month in limbo as a high school freshman, with no school and no football team during the early stages of the family's evacuation from New Orleans, he found himself scrambling past his scheduled graduation day to meet NCAA academic requirements and accept his lone offer of a college scholarship.
Without question, Baylor offensive guard Cyril Richardson will reflect on many of those thoughts when the 2014 NFL Draft commences, a day that will determine where his next home will be. And the North Crowley High School graduate, who was not allowed to accept his diploma with fellow seniors in his class because he did not complete all academic requirements until later in summer school, will reach the same conclusion he shared the other day when breaking down his remarkable journey.
"I'm just a true, blessed person. That's how I feel," Richardson said, citing the family's 2006 move to Fort Worth as a sojourn that offered "a lot more opportunity" for him to develop as a football player. "I was just put in the right position at the right time. It's a blessing that I got in this position. I'm not going to question it. I'm just going to keep going with it and make the best of it."
Richardson, a fifth-year senior, had a banner 2013 campaign, as the Jim Parker Award winner and Outland Trophy finalist was a unanimous All-American, along with being named the Big 12 Conference Offensive Lineman of the Year. He recorded 83 knock-downs with 23 touchdown blocks to finish with a league-high 89.3% grade for blocking consistency.
How does Richardson, who recalled reporting to Baylor carrying "70 pounds of bad weight" as a pudgy freshman, embrace the fact he's gone from a three-star signee in the 2009 recruiting class to one of the final three candidates to win the 2013 Outland Trophy, given to college football's top interior lineman, or being called one of the most physical players in the college game?
How does he react to the fact that the once homeless Louisiana native that was not wanted much by college recruiters is now coveted by National Football League teams?
"I'm speechless, to be honest," Richardson said. "In my head, it's not over yet. We still have to finish it. And I'm going to finish it. That's what's going through my head now."
The finish line is hearing his name called on draft day.
It is worth noting that, while Richardson remains humble towards his accomplishments, he was the main reason that Baylor set multiple team-related milestones. He was the only Bears player to be up for one of the nine individual honors that was presented December 12th at The Home Depot College Football Awards show in Orlando, Florida.
Richardson earned the 2013 Jim Parker Award, given by the Touchdown Club of Columbus. It is named for the late Ohio State football legend and Pro Football Hall of Famer Jim Parker, and is presented annually to college football's top offensive lineman.
He became the first Baylor player to win the award and the fifth player from the Big 12 Conference.
During the 2013 campaign, Richardson helped lead Baylor to its first-ever Big 12 Conference championship and a school-record 11 wins. Richardson was the leader for an offensive line that blocked for America's top offense. The Bears led the nation in scoring (681 points; 52.28 ppg) and total offense (8,044 yards; 618.77 ypg).
Richardson's team-leading 83 knockdowns and 12 blocks down field also helped the Baylor rushing attack that led the Big 12 and finished 13th nationally with an average of 259.69 yards per game. He served as the primary for junior running back Lache Seastrunk, who became the first player in school history to record back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons, as all 11 of the ball carrier's touchdown runs came with Richardson delivering the key block.
Richardson also aided in keeping quarterback Bryce Petty protected in 2013. The Bears surrendered only 22 sacks on the year — none by the junior left offensive guard. With that excellent protection, Petty went on to earn Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year honors from the Associated Press and the league's coaches, while throwing for 4,200 yards and 32 touchdowns.
Contrast his 2013 season to Richardson's situation in August 2005, when he was a freshman on the junior-varsity team at Landry High School in New Orleans. With Katrina approaching, school officials canceled his game shortly before kickoff. City officials declared a mandatory evacuation. Richardson left New Orleans with his parents, Albert Joseph and Anita Richardson, with plans to ride out the storm in Baker, Louisiana, a Baton Rouge suburb. Weeks later, the family returned to a house with broken water pipes and rampant black mold.
"We had to get rid of all the furniture, the refrigerator. Everything had to go," said Richardson, who wound up enrolling at Baker High School after a month in limbo. A late-season addition to the Baker football team, Richardson rarely played before the family moved to Fort Worth in October 2006.
Richardson enrolled at North Crowley High School, but did not play football that season. As a junior, he joined the team but missed multiple games because of UIL grade-related issues. Richardson said he "got my grades right for my senior year" and sought to hone his skills at a Baylor summer camp. While there, he caught the eye of Bears offensive line coach Randy Clements. Baylor offered a scholarship. A stunned Richardson accepted.
"I really was surprised," Richardson said. "Nobody knew me. Baylor … took a chance on me. But the minute that door opened for me, I said ‘I'm going to college' even though I was still in deep water with high school [academics]." Richardson, still behind on core classes from his semester in limbo in Louisiana, crossed that finish line during summer school after missing out on North Crowley's graduation ceremony.
"By then, I'd made some close friends. But I didn't get to walk across the stage with them," Richardson said. "That hurt me." After swapping some baby fat for muscle while redshirting in his first year on campus, Richardson dished out his share of pain to opponents.
"He's an individual who came in here without much fanfare. Zero, actually," Baylor coach Art Briles said. "And he's earned everything he's getting now in terms of accolades. He deserves everything that's coming his way with the way he's handled himself on and off the field."
For Richardson, the moral of his story is a simple one. "If an opportunity shows itself, you've got to take it," Richardson said. "Even if opportunity really isn't there, there's something in any situation that you can make an opportunity of. I'm going to take my blessings, but I'm going to run with them when I get them."
The coaching staff saw Richardson as a valuable "sixth man" for the offensive line in 2010. He played in 12 games, alternating between the two linemen spots on the left side, earning four starting assignments at guard. He finished third on the team with 63 knockdowns and was named to the All-Big 12 Conference Freshman Team.
Richardson moved to left tackle as a sophomore and was one of nine players on the team to start every game. He registered 70 knockdowns, third-best on the team and did not grade lower than 81% for blocking consistency in any contest. Protecting the quarterback's blind-side, the Bears finished second in the nation with an average of 587.1 yards per game in total offense, placing fourth in passing (351.5 ypg), fourth in scoring (45.3 ppg) and 10th in rushing (235.6 ypg).
An All-Big 12 Conference honorable mention the previous season, Richardson garnered first-team All-Big 12 and consensus All-American second-team accolades as a junior. He led the team with 105 knockdowns and paced the league with an 89.8% grade for blocking consistency in 2012. He was also selected Big 12 Offensive Lineman of the Year by the league's coaches. With the massive left guard clearing rush lanes, Baylor averaged 231.7 yards per game on the ground and finished second nationally in total offense (572.2 ypg).
Richardson started 42 of the 51 games that he appeared in at Baylor…Only defensive end Terrance Lloyd (43) had more career starts among the members of the Bears' 2013 roster…The recipient of the 2013 Jim Parker Award (college football's top offensive lineman), Richardson is the first Baylor player and only the fifth in Big 12 Conference history to receive that national honor…Registered 321 knockdowns (6.17 per game) and recorded sixty-five touchdown-resulting blocks (1.27 per game)…Among his starting assignments, 29 came at left guard and 13 were at left tackle.