When he was in high school, Cyril Richardson sat around.
Coming to North Crowley as a Hurricane Katrina evacuee, he was far from home, knew no one and didn’t know what was next.
“You don’t grow just from chilling and hanging out,” he says now.
His brother, Jeremy, encouraged him to get up, go out for football and get going. Seven years later, the advice is paying off for Cyril, a 6-foot-5, 354-pound guard who starred for four years at Baylor and is now a potential first-round NFL draft pick.
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“I didn’t expect this at all,” Richardson said. “It really has been kind of placed in my lap.”
Baylor coach Art Briles would beg to differ.
He recruited Richardson based off one camp workout, when Richardson was coming off only one full season of high school football.
“He hadn’t played the game that much, didn’t understand it that much, didn’t understand training,” Briles said. “He weighed 306 or 307 when we got him.”
Briles knows Richardson’s development didn’t just happen by itself.
“He’s separated himself with a business standpoint: apply a vision and mentalness,” Briles said. An NFL career is “his motivation, his desire, why he’s done right, stayed out of trouble, graduated,” Briles said.
Richardson credits Jeremy, who is four years older, for spurring the mentality that got him to Baylor.
“Coming from New Orleans to Fort Worth, they were two different places,” he said. “Things change when you go to another place. You get 500 miles from home, a lot of things change. A lot of my credits didn’t count. I was behind in school.
“As a sophomore, I wasn’t focused on football. I was trying to get settled in. And my junior year, my brother helped convince me maybe I should get back on the field. My senior year, I played that whole year.”
Of his brother, Richardson said, “He’s always had me on track, with everything football-related, life-related.”
For a while, Richardson almost gave up on going to Baylor. He did not graduate with his high school class, having to make up an algebra credit in the summer. The thought of summer work discouraged him. He thought of quitting. But he did the work, earned his diploma, and got to Waco, where Briles made him a part of the winningest period in Baylor football.
“The past four years, I’ve done my part,” he said. “But it’s really the buying-in part. It’s important. You’ve got to buy into the program. If you don’t believe what coach is telling you, you’re not going to do what he wants you to do, you’re not going to do what he needs you to do. You’ve got to take pride in being able to get those jobs done, in being the person who gets those jobs done.”
Briles believes Richardson has come out a polished pro prospect.
“Powerful. Fast. Smart. He’s never been injured. He’s a consummate NFL O-lineman. Play for 13 years if he wants to,” Briles said. “The thing that helps him is he played tackle a couple years. He can play in, can play out. With his physique, he’s exactly what I would be looking for if I was an NFL manager, owner or head coach.”
Richardson got mixed reviews at the Senior Bowl. He showed a strong push against players such as Minnesota’s Ra’Shede Hageman, but struggled against quicker players such as Pittsburgh’s Aaron Donald.
“When people come at him with power, he handles that really, really well,” NFL Network analyst Charles Davis said. “A little bit of speed, a little bit of wiggle seems to have given him a little trouble early this week. I want to see him adjust because there’s a lot to like about him. He locks up on you, he’s going to bury you. If you want to go power on power, I’ll take him more times than not.”
Richardson will have Baylor’s reputation for producing linemen on his side. Jason Smith and Danny Watkins have been first-round picks from Baylor under Briles.
Richardson admits he has work to do. But after enduring the biggest change of his life as a young teen, and then fighting self-doubt to make it to college, adversity in the practice for an all-star game is just part of the climb.
“I just did my best to believe if I really want something, I push for it,” he said. “I’m going to run with it now.”