Local Sports, University

UHS alum Richardson Jr. hoping for shot at NFL

MORGANTOWN — What was supposed to be a celebratory day for Tony Richardson Jr. turned into one of the worst of his college career.

In his final game at Virginia Military Institute and during his Senior Day, against Wofford, Richardson went down with a knee injury and did not return to the game.

The next day, he found out it was a torn ACL.

“It was really tough at the time it happens, and then the next morning, my trainers told me what it was,” Richardson said. “I was definitely emotional afterward.”

But Richardson, with the help of his parents and VMI strength coach Dave Forman, decided there was no time for feeling sorry for himself and took it as a challenge to get ready for the next step — a shot at the NFL.

The process

Richardson, a 2014 graduate of University High, had a stellar four-year career with the Keydets. Ranked one of the top players in West Virginia after being named a first-team all-state performer as a senior with the Hawks, he played in all 12 games as a freshman at VMI, at linebacker.

His role increased as a sophomore, to 10 starts, and as a junior, he played 483 snaps in a reserve role.

Last year, as a senior, Richardson racked up 45 tackles — seven for loss — and two sacks before getting hurt.

“I thought I had a solid career at VMI,” he said. “I was able to start for a few years and was able to contribute for my team. Looking back on it, I definitely learned so much about the game and what it takes to perform at the best of my abilities.”

Richardson’s production — along with a physique that would make Greek gods jealous, at 6-foot-3 and 230 pounds — caught the eyes of NFL scouts.

While still recovering from knee surgery, Richardson got a chance to work in his hometown at WVU Pro Day last week. The only drill he was able to do was bench press, but made it a point to let scouts know that he is continuing to work on getting healthy and will be back next season.

Richardson’s father, Tony Sr., played for the Mountaineers in the early 1990s. The elder Richardson got in contact with the WVU staff, and Tony Jr. was invited to participate this year and next, if he doesn’t latch on to a team.

“That was the only pro day I had my mind set on because it’s my hometown and I knew that they would have many scouts in attendance with the level of talent that comes out of WVU,” Richardson said. “I enjoyed being around and interacting with other players, and it was fun being around people who all wanted to accomplish the same goal, which was try and make it on an NFL roster.”

And he was right — 30 of 32 NFL teams were present. Richardson had a chance to speak briefly with the Chicago Bears and Philadelphia Eagles, letting them know his situation and that he is continuing to try to get healthy.

Even if it doesn’t happen this year, he’s shown he’s dedicated to keep trying, and will do the whole process over again next year, fully healthy, just for a chance.

“It would be a dream come true, Richardson said. “I just need an opportunity and I’ll be sure to make the most of it.”

Big brother

Richardson’s younger brother, Amir, will be a senior at UHS this fall and has already drawn interest from several Division I and Division II programs as a wide receiver, safety and linebacker, depending on the situation.

Amir has eight offers, including WVU and four Ivy League schools, and that list is expected to grow.

“I couldn’t be more proud of who he’s becoming, and that’s on and off the field,” Tony Jr. said. “He’s the most talented player in the state, and I’m glad schools are recognizing him as a true talent. I just tell him to go where he thinks it’s the best fit for him.

“At the end of the day, he’s going to have to go through the coursework and everything that comes with going to college, so I want him to go where he’s the most comfortable.”