TUSCALOOSA, Ala. -- If NFL personnel were unaware of the physical toughness of Trent Richardson before Thursday’s pro day on the University of Alabama campus, they were made to understand afterward.
During one drill, the 5-foot-11, 227-pound wrecking ball went full speed through a tackling dummy and bowled over a coach, sending him crumbling into the turf. The move drew a round of “oohs” and “aahs,” as well as a hearty round of laughter from those who have come to expect the hit-or-be-hit mentality from the former Heisman Trophy finalist at tailback.
“Anytime someone’s in my way I try to knock them over,” Richardson said. “Either they’re going to hit me or I’m going to hit them. Nine times out of 10 I’m trying to throw the lick.”
In three seasons with the Crimson Tide, Richardson threw quite a few licks at opposing defenses, running over or around the best defenses in the country. His patented stiff-arm/shrug move has sent more than a few players splashing to the turf.
It’s that tenacious, hard-hitting mentality that makes Richardson a special back, says Alabama coach Nick Saban. The sixth-year head coach of the Tide graded Richardson’s psychological makeup as being “A-plus.”
“He’s probably the best running back in the draft this year and probably one of the best players in the draft,” Saban said. “I think that’s based on his performance, his production and the consistency that he’s played with and the personal characteristics he has.”
Richardson is facing an uphill battle as he attempts to become the first running back taken in the top 10 since C.J. Spiller. In the past three drafts, no running back has gone higher than No. 9 overall.
Saban said that while he understands the hesitancy to take a running back early, the new rookie pay scale ought to allay any concerns.
“I know there are some people that have concerns about taking a running back high but as I said earlier with the salary cap changes with the rookie pool, you’re not investing as much in a guy as you used to,” Saban said. “So you better take someone you know is going to be a good player on your team and be a good fit for you.”
After running an unofficial 4.49 40-yard dash and bench pressing 25 reps of 225 pounds at Thursday’s pro day, Richardson has set himself up to buck the trend of backs dropping in the draft. He’ll have a few more opportunities to wow NFL personnel with individual workouts set up with St. Louis, Cleveland and Tampa Bay -- the No. 4 through No. 6 picks in the draft. Richardson, who grew up in Pensacola, Fla., said he’d take great pride in being selected in the top five.
“It’s a blessing,” Richardson said of even being considered that high of a draft pick. “It ain’t nothing more than that. I can’t tell you how good it feels inside for myself to come where I came from.”
Richardson said the hesitancy to draft running backs is a source of motivation, and he even made his case for general managers and coaches to take the risk in going after a running back where some might take a safer route.
“That motivates me a lot,” Richardson said of gunning for a top-10 selection. “There hasn’t been a top-10 running back since Adrian Peterson and I want to set the bar higher and put us back on the map and show we’re very rare and we need to be in the top-5, top-10.
“No matter what offense you put me in, what system, what workout program you put me in, I’m still going to play my hardest and play like I’ve been coached.”