By Andrew Caplan, Staff writer
After about a month of back-and-forth negotiations between a production company and the Alachua County School District, Eastside High School’s star quarterback Anthony Richardson has been given the green light to be featured on the upcoming Netflix show “QB1.”
Earlier this month, Alachua County Public Schools had denied Downrange Production Inc. from filming the 6-foot-4, 215-pound senior on school grounds due to legal concerns. That objection soon changed after backlash and further discussions with the Netflix show producers.
Richardson, 17, will be one of three college recruits from around the country featured on season four of Netflix’s “QB1: Beyond the Lights,” a show that tracks young student-athletes through their high school days into college. He has committed to the University of Florida and his episodes are expected to air in 2020.
“Honestly, I was shocked,” Richardson said. “I never thought something like this would unfold. We get recognition sometimes, but not like this.”
District spokeswoman Jackie Johnson said the district initially denied the filming request after concerns were raised about video and audio recording students in the locker room. The district also was asked to take on all legal liabilities during filming and would’ve been responsible for anything the company did with those recordings in future years.
Johnson said district officials also worried about the privacy of other students in the locker room, as well as cheerleaders, band members and trainers who may not welcome the publicity. Cameras had already begun filming Richardson prior to the district’s decision.
People took to social media taking aim at the school district’s decision, with some people calling it a “travesty” and to get the local NAACP involved. Richardson confirmed the district’s denial with an Aug. 12 tweet that featured a face-palm emoji.
“I was bummed out,” he said. “When I first found out they weren’t going to do it, I was hurt for my team and my school.”
But just a few weeks later, the school district and production company came to an agreement.
Producers of the show said they would take on legal responsibilities, obtain releases from all players being recorded and will stay out of the Eastside locker room. Instead, they will record moments of camaraderie in a weight room where players gather during pregame.
“We didn’t want to cut-off Anthony,” Johnson said. “Certainly, it’s a great opportunity … You couldn’t ask for a nicer young man. He is certainly very deserving of all the recognition that he is earning.”
Head coach Ceddric Daniels said news of the reversal left the four-star athlete elated, yet humble.
“He had a big smile, but he was like “cool,” he said. “He’s handled it well.”
Richardson, who attends classes at the Professional Academies Magnet at Loften High School but plays at Eastside, has received praise for his skills on and off the football field. At Loften, he is part of the Fire and Emergency Medical Services program where the school has taught him life lessons and helped him become a better team leader. He is expected to graduate early in December.
ESPN ranks him as the sixth best dual-threat QB in the 2020 recruiting class and has him ranked 189th overall in the country. He is also ranked as the 34th best player in the state and had the longest throw for about 70 yards during the summer Elite 11 QB camp in Dallas.
Daniels said that no players on the team have expressed concern about the increased focus on Richardson or constant hovering of camera crews, adding that “everybody is excited” to be on the show.
“We really don’t notice them,” he said. “But it’s kind of different always having a microphone on you monitoring everything you say.”
Daniels said Richardson’s biggest adjustment over the years has been his maturity and his size.
“He’s not my scrawny little freshman anymore,” he said.
The Eastside star said he hadn’t watched the show prior to being asked to join it, but soon binged through all three seasons. He said the cameras aren’t as daunting as one might think and he’s excited to know that his teammates also will receive recognition from the show.
“I want the people that are going to watch the show to see how I am and understand that I’m just a big kid,” he said. “And I love bringing the best out in people and making everybody the best they can be.”