Anthony Richardson 'blessed' with opportunity to improve and inspire with Gators
Though he may not have been born in Gainesville, Florida redshirt freshman quarterback Anthony Richardson takes pride in the city that reared him nonetheless.
Having starred at nearby Eastside High School, Richardson understands just how unique and rare his opportunity is, and the 19-year-old plans on making the most of it as he enters his second season with the Gators, both on and off the field.
“It’s a blessing. Not only because my family is super close and they come to games and watch just from around the corner, but it's a blessing because I'm being a role model to the young people in the generation in Gainesville and letting them know that anything is possible and that they can go anywhere that they want to go,” Richardson said. “So it’s just a blessing, you know, I’m truly blessed.”
Richardson arrived in Gainesville by way of Miami at the age of 10, his long, athletic frame already towering over his adolescent classmates. By his freshman year of high school, Richardson was already 6-feet tall and was dominating older competition on the basketball court and on the field. It didn't take long for him to find his way to the football field with the Rams, willing to play any position that would help the team.
Florida wide receiver Trent Whittemore, a Gainesville native who attended Cornerstone Academy prior to being a multi-sport athlete at Buchholz High, remembers well the beginning of Richardson’s athletic career at Citizens Field.
“I think the first time we actually met was my sophomore year, his freshman year, playing Eastside. He was at receiver, I believe, actually that year, and it was kind of just like, ‘Who’s this kid?’,” Whittemore said. “He looked like he should probably be in college, and he was a freshman in high school making crazy plays.”
Richardson doesn’t enjoy reminiscing on that night as much as Whittemore, however.
"I don't really like to talk about it,” Richardson said. “I remember that year because that's the year Trent and Buchholz beat us 51-0.”
Richardson would suffer many similar defeats as Eastside struggled consistently throughout his tenure, though one look at his grass-stained No. 2 jersey and the smile beaming through his facemask told a different story.
His demeanor was consistently one of gratitude. No matter the score, he wasn’t prone to emotional outbursts, and from a young age Richardson seemed to understand the importance of remaining even-keeled through the highs and lows.
“Being the quarterback, you can’t really do that,” Richardson said, “because if you hang your head about the last play, you might end up doing something worse than you did on the last play.”
Although his offensive coordinator, Garrick McGee, asserted after Wednesday night’s practice that Emory Jones was Florida’s No. 1 quarterback, there’s a reason Jones hasn’t run away with the starting job despite arriving on campus two years earlier than Richardson.
McGee said Richardson, in spite of his inexperience at the collegiate level, has a “strong commitment” to improving as a signal-caller, which he partially attributes to Richardson’s level of emotional investment in the program.
“He has a strong commitment to this university. His mom lives here, he grew up with the high school here, so being a Florida Gator and the success of the Florida Gators is really important to him,” McGee said. “He spends a lot of time in the meeting room. He calls a lot, ‘hey coach, can I come in and get 30 extra minutes of meeting, or I have a question about this. Can I come in and meet one on one about this particular, you know, situation.’ So he has a strong commitment to learning the game.”
His 6-foot-4, 236-pound frame doesn’t hurt either.
“The Lord has blessed him with a lot of raw talent, and he's big. He's fast. He's a very smart kid, he has a really quick release,” McGee continued, “and he’s accurate with the ball, so I just think he's an overall very good young football player.”
One that’s only just getting started when it comes to scratching the surface of his potential. The ceiling of Richardson’s success remains unknown, but he knows how he wants to be remembered: as someone who leaves a mark and inspires future generations of athletes.
“I just want to have an impact on the people, ‘cause growing up, I always looked up to people, but I didn't feel like I had, you know, people (relatable),” Richardson said. “So I try to just be around a lot of the younger generation, interact with them, just running around with them at football camps or training with them.
“Just having an impact in their life.”