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Spotlight: Cyril Richardson

Oct. 5, 2013

By Jeff Brown - Baylor Magazine

Hurricane Katrina did its best to derail Cyril Richardson's life.

At Baylor, he's gotten back on track.

"Katrina hit the second week of school," Richardson remembers, thinking back to his freshman year at Landry High School, "and we were gone."

That began a nearly two-year stretch in which the New Orleans native and his family moved, and moved, and moved again - first to his aunt's house in Baton Rouge, then to a trailer park nearby, then a second trailer park, then to his sister's house in North Texas, before finally settling in Fort Worth.

"When Katrina hit, it started up a weird process of losing friends and having to remake friends, trying to fit in a little bit," he recalls. "There are still lots of friends where I don't know what's going on with them; I haven't heard from them since that day, and that bothers me a little bit. But I try to move on."

On top of the personal struggles, the multiple moves also put Richardson behind the eight ball academically.

"Throughout high school, I was always behind. My senior year, I took two English classes and two math classes. I graduated, but I didn't graduate with my class the day of graduation, because I still had to catch up even after high school."

The whole scenario also almost ended Richardson's football career before it ever got started. Despite his natural size, the now 6-foot-5, 340-pound lineman didn't start playing football until the summer before his freshman year of high school - the summer before Katrina hit.

That season was literally washed away by the hurricane. As Richardson moved from place to place over the next year, he also missed his sophomore year of football, and he almost decided to give up on the sport.

"My brother pushed me back into it, and I'm glad he did," Richardson says today. "My brother saw something in me that I didn't realize, and that's one thing I'm grateful for - that I have a brother who has always seen the best in me and always tried to do the best for me, even when I didn't want to do it."

Finally as a junior, Richardson was back on the field - only to lose half the season to academically ineligibility brought on by the moves. The next summer, however, those academic issues surprisingly played a part in leading Richardson to Baylor.

"My coach told me I should try and go to some camps that the colleges were hosting. They had a Baylor one and a TCU one, but I was in the middle of taking summer school, because like I said, I've always been playing catch up.

"The TCU one was on a day when I was fed up with the summer school thing, because it was on a computer and you did it at your own pace. I was fed up, so I decided to grind through all of them as much as possible and get out of this class. I did it, but in doing it, I missed the TCU camp."

By the time of Baylor's camp, however, Richardson was prepared and available. He met several BU coaches, including offensive line coach Randy Clements, who offered a scholarship at the end of the day.

"I believe the camp was over around 6," recalls Richardson. "At 8 o'clock, I called him and told him, `I accept, and I'm committed.'"

By the time he graduated, Richardson was among the nation's top 100 high school players at his position, and he has only built on that promise at Baylor. After redshirting as a true freshman, Richardson played in 12 of the Bears' 13 games in 2010 and started 25 of Baylor's 26 games over the next two years, earning unanimous All-Big 12 honors and a handful of All-America recognitions as a junior last fall.

This fall, Richardson earned preseason All-America nods from seven publications and made the watch lists for the Outland Trophy and Rotary Lombardi Award, which honor college football's top linemen. Furthermore, he's projected as a possible first-round pick in next spring's NFL draft - a far cry from the kid who really just wanted to sit on the couch and play video games a decade ago.

Perhaps most importantly, the kid who once struggled to finish high school is now on pace to graduate college this December.

Nice try, Katrina. You learned what countless defensive linemen and pass rushers have learned over the last few years: You just can't knock Cyril Richardson down.



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