White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. – "What now?"
Bobby Richardson Jr. posed the question to his son, Bobby III, who admittedly was in the middle of making a gigantic mess of his athletic career.
"My first year of high school, I didn't make the team there," Richardson III said. "Second year, I transferred to another high school and my grades were low. Third year, me and the coach got into some type of thing and I was released from the team."
So, in three years of high school – and aided by the double dip of having a poor attitude and poorer circle of friends – Bobby Richardson III hadn't played a down.
"What now?" his father asked.
"It was just one line," Richardson III said. "I remember he told me, after I was off the team and I had one year left, he just said, 'What now?' And that just struck me. I was like, 'I've got one year left to get it all together.' "
He got it all together.
Richardson III played his senior season at Plant High in Tampa, Fla., earned a scholarship offer from Indiana and started 27 of his 45 games there.
He didn't earn a selection in the NFL draft, but perhaps he earned the next best thing for a free agent rookie – an opportunity to join the New Orleans Saints, who have proven uncanny at finding rookie free agents who are capable of making the 53-man roster.
Richardson (6 feet 3, 285 pounds) turned heads even prior to coming to training camp at The Greenbrier. But since camp opened, and the linemen have donned pads and been able to engage significantly more forcefully, the defensive lineman has done much to stand out.
He has been relentless in pass-rush drills, working his way through and around blockers. He has been consuming reps as a glutton, moving from position to position along the line as he expands his knowledge and sharpens his skills. He has worked with the No. 1 and 2 defensive units, a substantial appointment for a player who wasn't drafted.
But, too, Richardson joined a team whose coaching staff employs a "we go by what we see" theory. Suffice to say, they must like what they see.
"After I didn't get drafted a bunch of teams called, but I just felt like when the coaches called me – (defensive line) coach Bill Johnson called me, Coach Rob (Ryan) called me – and I just felt like they really wanted me more than the other teams did," Richardson said. "I just stuck with the Saints and I like my choice."
!(http://www.ticketexchangebyticketmaster.com/NFL/new-orleans-saints-tickets/?intcmp=tm108616&wt.mcid=NFLTEAMNOTRAININGCAMPARTINCLAD_300x250 "TM")"We have a handful of those young, free agent defensive linemen," Coach Sean Payton said. "It's one of our better classes with guys we signed after the draft. It'll be interesting to evaluate them as we progress through camp and get into the preseason games."
By no means will the games be the easy part for Richardson. But having gotten himself on the right track, the games might not seem nearly as difficult as they otherwise might appear.
"I just had a lot of stuff going on," he said. "I wasn't focused back in high school but I had to get on the right track. I did at the last second, and it got me here.
"My father was a big influence on me. He helped me get back on the right track. I had to get my life right with God, too, and once I did that I got a few scholarship offers. And it got me here."
Going undrafted didn't adversely affect Richardson, who had a draft-worthy grade coming out of Indiana.
"I don't know what happened, this is just the hand I was dealt," he said. "I've got to move on from that, I can't live in the past. I'll just make the best of what I've got.
"I was already prepared. I had a list of teams I wanted to go to and after that didn't happen, I wasn't going to be down on myself. I just have to use it as motivation. That was just the cards I was dealt and I'm just trying to play a bad hand well."
So far, he has been able to adjust the cards a bit more to his liking.
As a defensive lineman he has earned notice, but Richardson also knows that special teams may be his route to a roster spot.
"Just anywhere I can fit in, anywhere I can help the team," he said.
"I've been just glad with my choice because they were one of the teams I felt gave me a real opportunity to show what I have. I'm just trying not to waste that opportunity."
"What now?" Bobby Richardson Jr. once asked.
It's a question that his son, who now has direction, appears to have answered.