Richardson hopes to emulate idol Emmitt Smith

Trent Richardson, 5-foot-11, 220 pounds
ESPN 150 Watch List running back
Escambia High School (Pensacola, Fla.)

With all the hype and exposure that goes along with being a top national football prospect today, it's always refreshing to hear about a talented young athlete who does not get caught up in the moment.

Alabama recently landed a commitment from one of the top running backs in the country, Under Armour All-American Trent Richardson. Yet it's his equally impressive humility and drive that make him even more attractive, traits that separate Richardson from other elite prospects with similar physical talent.

As a highly sought-after national back, Richardson received a lot of attention before pledging to the Crimson Tide, but personal glory was never one of his goals when he first fastened the chin strap. Through conversations with the ESPN 150 Watch List running back, it's clear that his modesty and unassuming manner stem from his strong upbringing, one built around a foundation of life's simple core values.

Richardson grew up in Pensacola, Fla. He was raised with lots of love but never had much materially, if anything at all. He can remember eating peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for dinner but also recalls never longing for more than he had. Instead, Richardson was taught to appreciate the little things in life, to "make do with what you have" and, most importantly, to strike at any breaks that come your way.

After a 400-yard performance against Tate High School in his opening game as a junior, the comparisons to former standout Escambia running back Emmitt Smith were inevitable. However, Richardson in contrasting himself to the NFL's all-time leading rusher, hoped he could emulate much more than his yardage totals. Like Smith did, Richardson thinks football is his chance to make something out of his life. For Richardson, football is a vehicle to earn a free education and potentially a career playing a sport he loves.

"We as a family never had much growing up," Richardson said. "My mom [Katrina] always told me when you get an opportunity in life to take it and that's what I'm trying to do. I'm trying to make something of my life with football and be the first person to make it big out of Pensacola in awhile."

Some scouts will say you can tell a running back's off-field demeanor by his running style, and it was easy to see the passion in Trent Richardson on film as he powered his way through opponents last season for close to 1,500 yards. He has rare blend of speed (10.6 100 meter) and power (365-pound power clean), but it is his determination and second effort as a back that often impresses you more. The soft spoken 17-year-old is described as a "violent runner" on his Scouts Inc. evaluation. He runs aggressively, almost like he doesn't want opponents to take away all that he has accomplished and is still trying to achieve in life.

"Trent was taught to make something out of nothing through hard work and is proud of what he has gained through football," said his godmother and key supporter Michelle Crocker. "He was also taught to return something if you gain something in life and Trent has been good role model for other kids in the area that are trying to make it."

Even personal visits from prominent programs such as LSU, Florida, Alabama and Illinois at spring practice did little to inflate the ego of this high school junior in mid-May. Richardson said he felt blessed for all the attention but was more proud of the fact his elite status could open eyes for his teammates and other young, aspiring football players in the area who, like Richardson, are just looking for a chance.

Don't expect a letdown this fall just because this elite back has already committed to play football at Alabama. Trent Richardson does not take anything for granted in life on or off the football field.

"His commitment [to Alabama] has not slowed him down at all," said Escambia head coach Jimmy Nichols. "School is out and he is still here every day working out hard with the weights and running.

"Trent is a special player. This couldn't have happened to better person."

Richardson's Scouts Inc. evaluation
Richardson is a violent runner with the strength to pound it between the tackles and the perimeter speed to turn the corner and take it the distance. He possesses great size with his compact, thickly-built frame and is very strong throughout out his upper and lower-body. Potential high-carry, durable back at the next level who can wear down a defense.

Great slashing, "one-cut and explode" downhill runner. Can decisively hit the small cutback creases without gearing down and losing much power through the hole. Squares up his shoulder pads quickly and can be a load to bring down when he breaks through the seam with his great burst, low center of gravity and body-tilt. Runs through most high arm tackles with his powerful upper-body and legs do not stop driving on contact; a pile mover when he lowers his shoulders. What separates this kid is his ability to hurt you in space and on the perimeter. Shows smooth hips eluding defenders without losing much in transition and great jump-cut ability.

Good top-end speed in the second level and will flash a strong stiff arm when defenders have an angle. However, he does lack great acceleration and at times the extra gear needed to separate when he turns the corner. Receiving skills will need some polish as well, but Richardson is a rare back with the combination to hurt you with in-line yards after contact or outside speed and quickness.

Expect national recruiting to heat up for this determined runner this spring as his junior film slides across the desks of more college coaches. Should be one of the more sought-after backs in the country.

Billy Tucker is a recruiting coordinator for Scouts Inc. and has close to a decade of coaching experience at the college and high school level. Tucker has served as a recruiting coordinator for two nationally ranked Division II colleges. Most recently, he was the associate head coach and defensive coordinator for Merrimack College, which advanced to the Sweet 16 in the 2006 NCAA Division II playoffs.