To say Trent Richardson leads a quiet life off the field is an understatement; a father of two little girls has forced him to. But when Richardson steps onto the football field, his talent and ability speak volumes.
Contributing author to this piece – Erik Evans, an Alabama Alum and blogger for ThrowTheFlagBlog.com - By way of introduction, I am a Southerner, an Alabama alum, and a father. In that respect, it’s a superficial existence I share with Alabama’s running back Trent Richardson.
Trent Richardson was, like Julio Jones before him, one of those physically gifted Gulf Coast freaks with the body of a man, and the chronological age of a kid. Entering the 2009 recruiting class, he was one of the most coveted players in the nation, and his choice came down to defending National Champion Florida, or the resurgent Crimson Tide.
His high school feats were astonishing. At Escambia High School, he broke Emmett Smith’s records, finishing his senior season with 2090 yards. That year he pummeled even-elite Florida high school talent. Not once, but twice, he rushed for over 400 yards and 6 touchdowns in game. Nor was his success limited to the gridiron. As a 5’11”, 218 pound power lifter, he benched 380, clean and jerked 325 for a total of 705 en route to the Florida High School title. Nick Saban even called Richardson “the key to the recruiting class” of 2009. No faint praise for a class that signed all-American linemen Barrett Jones and James Carpenter, as well as all-SEC performers Nico Johnson, Dre Kirkpatrick and D.J. Fluker. – Erik Evans
Trent was born on July 10, 1990 to Katrina Richardson, and was raised in the Warrington Village housing projects in Pensacola, FL. He didn’t have a relationship with his father, an aspiring boxer, but was surrounded by family members who supported and loved him unconditionally. It was these men – uncles, brothers, and eventually coaches that would become father figures to Trent early on.
Katrina worked at seafood restaurants, day care centers, and cleaned houses to make ends meet for her six sons – three biological and three adopted. But all the love and support in the world didn’t erase the hardships the family faced. The boys turned to sports to occupy their free time and Trent’s drive and talent were apparent as he played tackle football with high school boys when he was in elementary school.
In seventh grade Trent failed to turn in a homework assignment, which prompted the teacher to tell him something that resonates with him to this day, “You’re not gonna be nothing”.
When Trent reached Escambia High, Derrick Boyd, who coached him in football and track, quickly added mentor to his title. In the third game of the season, Richardson rushed for over 200 yards and scored three touchdowns. The following game, Trent tore a ligament in his ankle, and was sidelined the rest of the Gator’s campaign.
The following year provided more heartbreak for Richardson on the field, but one of two greatest gifts off of it. In the season opener he ran for over 200 yards and suffered another season-ending injury while returning a kick 94 yards for a touchdown. A month later while recovering from right ankle surgery, his longtime girlfriend Sevina Fatu gave birth to Taliyah.
The words “You’re not gonna be nothing” were always in the back of his mind, daring him to fail; they only strengthened his resolve.
Trent never held any resentment towards his own father for being absent and used it as fuel to be a better man himself. While he was rehabbing his injury, he picked up a part-time job while focusing on academics. Trent was determined to stop at nothing to not only provide for his daughter financially, but to love and support her the way he had been his entire life – unconditionally.
Trent’s older brother and best friend, Terrell, was the first in the family to leave a place where by 18 year old most young men are in jail or shot. Terrell once said in an interview, “two to three of our homeboys are dead every year”. A defensive end, Terrell attended University of Louisiana-Lafayette on a football scholarship in 2007. That same year, Trent would emerge as one of the greatest running backs the panhandle had ever seen. In eight games Richardson rushed for 1,390 yards and 14 touchdowns, including a 407-yard performance on opening night as well as a game later in the season in which he picked up 242 yards before halftime. In the offseason, Trent played a little basketball and ran track, while working and studying. As a track star, Trent ran a 10.5 100 meters, but Boyd believed he could run a 10.2. Trent had faith in his coach, and backed off of basketball to focus on track that spring.
College coaches started contacting Richardson, and soon he had offers from Ole Miss, Mississippi State, LSU and Alabama. Playing in Tuscaloosa was the most enticing to Trent, but Katrina wanted him to consider LSU so he could remain close to Terrell.
Before his senior campaign began Auburn, Florida, Florida State, South Carolina, and Texas added their names to the list, bringing his total scholarship offers to an astounding 20; but Trent had verbally committed to Alabama after a visit in June. That verbal commitment didn’t stop many schools from keeping the pressure on him, most notably LSU, the Gators, and the nearby Seminoles. His 2090 yards, 27 touchdown senior season proved why.
Two more events changed Trent’s life that year, the death of his father and the birth of his second daughter, Elevera.
Although they were estranged, Trent visited his father on his death bed, as he was slipping away to lung cancer. It was important to Trent to say goodbye to a man that he felt “I still owe a lot to him because if it wasn’t for him, I couldn’t be here today.”
The birth of Elevera solidified to Trent that the words “You’re not gonna be nothing” were not going to win. He would become the best father, son, brother, nephew, teammate, and student he could be.
In February 2009, one of the most sought-after recruitments in Florida’s history officially ended when Trent Richardson officially signed his Letter of Intent with the University of Alabama.
Such an enormous prospect could only go one of two ways: A colossal bust or an enormous success. Consider Richardson’s time at the Capstone more than a modest success. As a true freshman in 2009, he rushed for nearly 800 yards, including 102 yards and two critical TDs that proved to be the difference in Alabama’s National Championship win over Texas. Richardson, even as Mark Ingram was winning Alabama’s first Heisman trophy, was always called “Alabama’s best running back”. Richardson finished as all-SEC and freshman all-American selections.
Enter 2010, a year plagued by high ankle sprains, a rebuilt offensive line, and defensive lapses that ultimately cost the Tide three games. Despite the somewhat modest numbers (700+ yards rushing, 6 TDs), Richardson entered the 2011 campaign preseason All-American, All-SEC and the undisputed offensive leader of the Crimson Tide. The only question was could he carry the load.
The 2011 season spoke for itself, and the hardware backed up his numbers. Trent rushed for nearly 1600 yards and 20 TDs against seven top-40 rushing defenses. He caught almost 2 dozen passes for another 150 and three TDs. Rightly was Richardson a Heisman Finalist (polling 3rd behind Luck and winner RGIII), Doak Walker winner, and unanimous All-American. Even more frightening for SEC defensive coordinators, Richardson has publicly state that he wants to return for his senior season and finish his degree. Laudable goals. – Erik Evans
When Trent arrived in Tuscaloosa in the summer of 2009, he was homesick for his family and would drive to Pensacola on the weekends. His Aunt Vivian would send care packages to ease his heartache, while his Aunt Dorothy would knit him blankets. His Uncle Willie would call him before every game and they would pray together. His family has never given up on him, even making the drive to attend games and helping to raise his children.
The next year, an hour before the Crimson Tide were set to kick off against Ole Miss, he lost his Aunt Vivian to cancer.
The relationship with the mother of his children is important to him and he and Sevina have remained close, although no longer together. His daughters now live in Birmingham with Katrina and Trent drives the hour to visit them as much as he can. They sing to him on the phone and talk about football to make the time apart pass quicker.
A business major, Trent maintains a grade point average well over 3.00 and last summer when his brother Zan Carter began to stray, Trent moved him in. Zan now attends high school in Tuscaloosa, where his grades are back on track, making his mentor and brother proud.
This November during the Mississippi State game his Aunt Dorothy laid on the couch, her body riddled with a disease that already took two family members from him, and watched her beloved nephew play football. After more than three quarters, Dorothy watched Trent run in a game-clinching touchdown for the final time before she too succumbed to cancer. Six days later, he attended her funeral in Atlanta, and then returned to Tuscaloosa to play Georgia Southern. In that game, Richardson rushed for 175 yards and three touchdowns.
A few weeks later when Griffin III won the Heisman, Richardson told reporters “That dude is awesome. I’m happy for him.” But unlike other athletes before him, no one questioned his sincerity; individual awards were never important to Trent.
What sets the nation’s most violent runner apart is his relationship he with his two daughters, three-year-old Elevera and five-year-old Taliyah. Balancing work-family life is a large concern to most of us. But, try to do that while still being practically a kid yourself, dealing with the notorious demands Saban places on players, the award circuits and life as a college student. Daunting. But to hear the man speak, it is apparent that those girls clearly frame the sun for Richardson. On numerous occasions he has spoken about doing what is best for the kids, including being a role model for them.
Richardson’s family bond should come as no surprise. He was the youngest of six children, three of which were adopted, living in a single parent household. Even as a two-sports star and high school student, Richardson took work to support the family. Then, while Richardson was a child himself, Taliyah was born, adding the role of “father” to student, athlete, employee.
But you’ll never hear him complain about juggling it all. Nor will you see the worries of the world diminish his perpetual electric smile. Those of us with children know why: All of the work is worth it to do right by them. Of Richardson’s many accomplishments and labels, I suspect the one he’d provide first is “dad”. – Erik Evans
With so much loss and so many obstacles, it would be easy to give up; but those words don’t exist to Trent. They motivate him to greatness, whether on the field, in the classroom, or as a father.
“You’re not gonna be nothing” has never been more true. Richardson is indeed, something.
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Dory LeBlanc, covers Gator sports for Gators First and BourbonMeyer.com. Not just a college sports enthusiast, Dory is also a fan of NFL, NHL, NBA, and MLB. Born outside Philly, she moved to Tampa, and now resides in Illinois, giving her a broad perspective on the sporting world. You can follow Dory on twitter @DoryLeBlanc