Trent Richardson was the Alabama Crimson Tide’s number one tailback for only one season, but it was impressive enough that the junior from Pensacola, Fla., was selected Alabama Amateur Athlete of the Year by the Alabama Sports Writers Association.
Trent Richardson and other athletes of the year in various categories and others will be recognized at the ASWA’s annual awards banquet in Birmingham Sunday.
Although officially the back-up to 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram in 2009 and 2010, it was more appropriate to consider Richardson Ingram’s sidekick. And it was not a case of one bringing one skill set, the other having a different strength. Both have been complete backs.
With Ingram leaving Bama following his junior year, Richardson took over as the Tide’s number one back and helped Alabama to a 12-1 record and the 2011 national championship. In his junior season, Richardson finished third in Heisman Trophy balloting, behind quarterbacks Robert Griffin III of Baylor and Andrew Luck of Stanford.
Richardson was Southeastern Conference offensive player of the year as voted by SEC coaches.
Alabama Coach Nick Saban said, “Trent has the rare combination of not only being a great player, but a real quality person at the same time. He did an outstanding job of representing the University of Alabama, his family and himself during his three years here. His commitment to excellence, both on and off the field, has been a great example for others. Everyone knows the kind of football player Trent is, but he was also very involved in the community and very successful academically. He had one of the top grade point averages on the team, and was ahead of schedule to graduate before declaring for the draft. He’s a fantastic team player and was extremely productive against some of the best defenses in the country. The respect everyone on the team had for him was evident when the other players voted him a team captain. It is a great honor to be named the top amateur athlete in the state of Alabama and this recognition for Trent is certainly well deserved.”
The numbers are spectacular, but there is more to Richardson’s career and to his Athlete of the Year season. It started in 2009 against Arkansas when he had a 52-yard touchdown run Also as a freshman he rushed for over 100 yards and had a 49-yard touchdown run in the national championship win over Texas at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena. As a sophomore in 2010 he had a 20-yard reception for a touchdown in Bama’s comeback win against Arkansas in Fayetteville.
And in his junior season he had highlight play after highlight play, including:
• A 76-yard touchdown run against Ole Miss in Oxford in which he broke a handful of tackles and finished with a juke move that froze the last defenders as Richardson scooted into the end zone.
• A 57-yard run against Auburn in which he stiff-armed one defender out of bounds.
• On the final touch of his college career, he burst 34 yards for a touchdown as Bama closed out the scoring in a 21-0 win over LSU for the national championship at the Louisiana Superdome in New Orleans.
Following the win over Auburn, in which Richardson had 27 runs for 203 yards, Saban called him “the best football player in the country.”
There have been a lot of good football players at Alabama, and now Richardson holds Crimson Tide records for rushing yards (1,689), rushing touchdowns (21), and all-purpose yards (2,083) in a season. He tied Alabama and SEC records with 24 total touchdowns.
In 2011, Richardson led the SEC in rushing with 283 carries for 1,679 yards, 5.9 yards per rush, and 129.2 yards per game. Richardson was tops in the conference in all-purpose yards with 1,679 rushing, 338 on pass receptions, and 66 on kickoff returns for 2,083, an average of 160.2 per game.
Richardson led the league in scoring with 144 points on 24 touchdowns, 11.1 per game.
Richardson was winner of the Doak Walker Award (a first for a Bama player) as the nation’s best running back, and a unanimous first-team All-America in 2011.
Richardson was also selected by his teammates as a permanent captain (along with Mark Barron and Dont’a Hightower) in 2011.
Richardson said, “I am extremely honored to be named the Amateur Athlete of the Year by the Alabama Sports Writers. I enjoyed working with the writers that covered Alabama, and I’m honored they have recognized me. This is an award that I would not be receiving if it wasn’t for my teammates at Alabama, my offensive line and coaches especially, and I want to thank them.”
One of Richardson’s greatest feats came in late March. Few things are more boring for reporters and other spectators behind the ropes than a Pro Day workout, when prospective NFL players go through various drills for the benefit of scouts.
On March 7, Alabama had its Pro Day, and every NFL team had scouts and/or coaches in Tuscaloosa to look at prospective former Crimson Tide players in anticipation of the NFL draft in late April. But because three Bama players were unable to participate on March 7, the Crimson Tide hosted Pro Day II Thursday, March 29.
And the NFL turnout for Pro Day II was even more prominent with three head coaches in attendance. That’s because the cream of the Alabama crop – including Richardson -- was participating.
Richardson made an impression, and particularly on Cleveland Browns running backs coach Gary Brown. Brown was holding a blocking pad for Richardson to pop.
The second pop was Brown’s butt on the turf in Alabama’s indoor practice facility.
Brown had to laugh. So did the other coaches and scouts. Finally, even Richardson allowed himself a smile.
How much the coach’s report influenced Cleveland may never be known, but the Browns traded their number one, fourth, fifth, and seventh round 2012 picks to swap with the Minnesota Vikings for the third overall selection in this year’s NFL Draft in order to take Richardson.
It was the second consecutive year for an Alabama running back to be selected. Ingram, the 2009 Heisman Trophy winner (and ASWA Amateur Athlete of the Year), was taken in the first round by New Orleans last year.