The science says former Florida QB Anthony Richardson will be worth the gamble for an NFL team

David Whitley
The Gainesville Sun

After his superhuman performance in the Underwear Olympics, Anthony Richardson has become the ultimate NFL lottery ticket. The Powerball of quarterbacks, a longshot who could bring unimaginable fortune to some lucky team.

Or maybe he’ll be a spectacular bust.

If you’re guessing the latter, here are a few words of caution:

Flexion torque. Pelvis angular velocity. Supraspinatus rotation.

Those are phrases you might hear from Tom Gormely, one of the masterminds behind Richardson’s exhibition at last week’s NFL Combine.

It’s jokingly called the Underwear Olympics because it’s like a glorified physical exam. Richardson was off-the-charts good, fueling the debate whether a guy who completed only 53% of his passes in college is worth a top-10 pick. Or top-5?

Richardson speaks at NFL Combine:Former Florida QB Anthony Richardson on completion percentage: 'I can't also catch every pass'

No Djokovic:Whitley's Believe It Or Not |US double-faults on banning Novak Djokovic from entering country

Armstrong to the rescue:Ready or not, Austin Armstrong is now charged with resurrecting Florida's defense

Or maybe even going No. 1? The Carolina Panthers on Friday traded up to the top spot and they need a quarterback.

I once considered that preposterous, and far greater football minds (hello, Nick Saban) still do. But now I’m stepping aboard the AR Bandwagon.

“I’d be so eager to get my hands on him if I were an NFL team,” Will Hewlett said.

He and Gormely are Richardson’s prime technicians at Tork Sports Performance, a training facility in St. Augustine. It’s like Dr. Frankenstein’s laboratory, only the goal is to produce athletic monsters using high-tech analysis and training techniques.

“It’s not just about getting bigger, faster and stronger,” Gormely said of his prized pupil. “It’s about getting bigger, faster and stronger in the planes of movement that are efficient for something that rotational. So rotational kinematics is very different than linear force production.”

I have no idea what that means, but Dr. Gormely is fluent in such language. He graduated from UF with a Finance degree in 2012 but found his true calling in physical therapy and the study of human biomechanics.

Tork training has been going on for Richardson since December

Richardson's been training at Tork since late December. Using 3-D motion-capture technology, Gormely first analyzed Richardson’s throwing motion and designed programs to address the flaws. Hewlett is like the on-field technician, drilling the proper techniques into Richardson’s muscle memory.

The goal is to produce a consistent, fluid, natural throwing motion that doesn’t break down on the field. As Gator fans can attest, that’s been a bit of an issue with Richardson. He can throw 50-yard lasers with the flick of a wrist, but shorter throws often go astray.

“He’d been told not to throw the ball too hard,” Hewlett said. “That’s not a good way to coach.”

A lot of things contributed to the inconsistency. Coaching turnover. Richardson was dinged up much of his UF career. His receivers didn’t exactly remind anyone of Percy Harvin.

Florida Gators quarterback Anthony Richardson (15) runs with the ball during the first half against the South Carolina Gamecocks at Steve Spurrier Field at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium in Gainesville, FL on Saturday, November 12, 2022. [Matt Pendleton/Gainesville Sun]

He’d misread defenses and press too hard to make plays. In the heat of such moments, he’d throw flat-footed or off-balance. But the biggest problem was a simple lack of on-the-job training.

Richardson has started only 13 games on the college level. Most NFL quarterback prospects have at least twice that number.

After throwing four interceptions and no touchdowns in his first three games last season, Richardson had 17 TDs and five picks the rest of the way. The more you play, the more you learn.

NFL teams use cognitive tests that measure things such as instinctive learning, tracking capacity, decision complexity and impulse control. Hewlett said Richardson’s score was way above average for most QBs.

“He’s not going to have any problems comprehending the complexity of a playbook,” Hewlett said.

An NFL Combine performance for the ages

As for the physical part, the Combine results were historic. Among other feats, a 6-foot-4, 244-pound human is not supposed to be able to run 40 yards in 4.43 seconds.

“He’s an absolute freak of nature,” Gormely said. “He’s Derrick Henry who can throw the ball 80 yards.”

But can he consistently throw it 20 yards and hit a receiver in stride? Richardson’s passing performance at the Combine quelled a lot of those fears.  

“He was able to put together a super-efficient movement pattern,” Gormely said, “… and have hip-shoulder separation, and hip collision and getting passive layback and finishing with a good lead-leg block.”

To which skeptics say, “Gobbledygook! It’s the Underwear Olympics. You are what your film says you are.”

That’s Saban’s take, anyway.

“We’ve all seen the 6-4, 225-pound guy that can throw it like a bazooka, but he can’t make the choices and decisions,” he said on Stephen A. Smith’s podcast. “He can’t distribute the ball. He can’t throw it accurately.”

Saban didn’t mention any 6-4 guy by name. And he was really trying to pump up Bryce Young, who has a great college film.

Similarly, Gormely and Hewlett aren’t exactly objective observers of Richardson. Factor that into the debate, which will rage until the April 27th draft.

I keep coming back to his inexperience. Richardson’s still too young to legally drink. He has so much potential for growth.

Remember these great NFL QBs: Matt Leinart, Tim Couch, Vince Young, Ryan Leaf?

As for “You are what your film says you are,” the film said Matt Leinart would be a great NFL quarterback. So would Tim Couch. And Vince Young. And Ryan Leaf.

Richardson is by no means ready to step in as an NFL starter on Day One. He’ll need to go to the right team with the right plan.

“What you have is a super-bright, highly-athletic kid who is willing to put in a serious amount of work,” Gormely said. “I have no question about the fact he will continue to develop.”

Does that make it worth the risk of playing AR Powerball?

You bet your supraspinatus it does.

David Whitley is The Gainesville Sun's sports columnist. Contact him at Follow him on Twitter @DavidEWhitley