Cam? Lamar? Former Florida QB Anthony Richardson sees some of both idols in himself

Hal Habib
Palm Beach Post

INDIANAPOLIS — For years, it was always Cam Newton. When Anthony Richardson decided who he wanted to be like when he grew up, Newton was it. Then along came Lamar Jackson. Could Richardson desert his idol? Hardly.

“I started calling myself ‘Cam Jackson’ in 11th grade,” Richardson said Friday during an upbeat session with the media at the NFL Scouting Combine.

Richardson, the former Florida Gators quarterback, arrived in Indianapolis knowing he’s projected to come off the board in the first round, possibly early in the round. Not because of what he has been. Because of what he can be.

Cam Jackson.

Lamar Newton.

However you care to say it.

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“Teams are starting to look at some of these quarterbacks as lottery tickets,” NFL Network analyst Daniel Jeremiah said. “And this one has the biggest payout.”

Richardson was coy about his situation, claiming he didn’t know what it means to be tagged with a “project label,” then jabbing a reporter who followed up by wondering how Richardson deals with it.

“My guy right there said I’m a project,” Richardson said, pointing to Reporter No. 1 and drawing more laughter. “So I guess teams already know that I have room to grow. So they see sparks in me. I see them myself as well.”

Completion percentage is a concern

How can you not? Just as plain as his career completion percentage (it’s only 53.9) are highlight-reel plays in which he runs over people like Newton, pirouettes around others like Jackson and toasts defenses like both of them. You want to talk about ceilings? Jeremiah says Richardson doesn’t have one. He’s that gifted at 6-feet-4 and 244 pounds.

“I want to be a legend,” Richardson said. “I want to be like Patrick Mahomes. I want to be like Tom Brady. I want to be one of the greats. I will be one of the greats because I'm willing to work that hard and get to that point. And so, to answer that question, I feel like I'm going to be one of the greats in the next few years.”

Richardson wasn’t done dropping names. At another point, he mentioned Joe Burrow, Justin Herbert and Josh Allen.

“I feel like I'm able to do those same things that those guys are able to do,” he said.

In fact, he's able to do things no quarterback has done. In his workout Saturday, he set Combine records for a QB with a 40.5-inch vertical jump and a 10-foot, 9-inch broad jump. He also ran the 40 in 4.44, helping create a buzz as to just how high he will come off the board.

Richardson started only last season at Florida, but in his limited college experience, there are plenty of plays in which he showed flashes of the players he named. Just like there are overthrows and underthrows. The team that takes him will be the one most confident it can maximize the former and minimize the latter.

“I’m willing to bring anything and everything that they need from me,” he said. “So just grow and continue to grow.”

Gators QB Anthony Richardson passes against Utah.

Trying to refine mechanics with trainers

Richardson has been training in Jacksonville, trying to get a jump on his pro career by refining his mechanics.

“Using my hips,” he said. “A lot of people say I have a big arm and I do believe so. But you can’t just muscle the ball around all the time.”

Even though he’s only 20, Richardson figures he’s a mature 20 as a person.

“I had to grow up early in life,” he said. “I had to raise my younger brother. My mom was working two to three jobs every year. So a lot of people don't know my situation. They don't know my story and that's why I'm here, to tell my story and let people know who I am.”

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He went on.

“If you ask a lot of people around Gainesville, I had a black, little mountain bike and whenever you saw me, you saw my little brother on the handlebars,” he said. “I had to take him to school. I had to take him to get food. Or I had to get him dressed for school. So that's my brother, but I love him like he's my son. I'm just glad that he’s a part of my life. I love him and I just can't wait for both of us to live out our dreams.”

When he wasn’t playing chauffeur, Anthony could be found climbing trees, “bouncing around,” proving to the neighborhood how athletic he could be. Now, NFL scouts are taking note. Reporters tried to pry a 40 time out of Richardson, but like those would-be tacklers, he was ready for them. Take the question teams ask about how his speed compares to another ex-Gator, tight end Kyle Pitts.

“They asked me if I was faster than Kyle,” Richardson said. “I’ve got to brag on myself a little bit. I definitely told them I am faster. If Kyle sees this, I’m sorry.”

So how fast is Richardson? He had fun with reporters on the topic the day before his workout.

“How fast am I? I say I’m fast.”

His target 40 time?

“Definitely fast.”

Fast enough, you might say. And smart enough to know he’s not a finished product.

“I can definitely get better at delivering the ball and helping my guys out,” he said. “But I can't also catch every pass. If I could, I would, definitely. But it's just helping guys out and helping guys help me. My completion percentage some people say is not great. I don't think it's great either.”

To receivers on whichever team does draft him: Watch out. Richardson makes no attempt to gloss over what he expects of his targets.

“I've had a lot of people telling me I'm throwing it too hard,” he said. “So when I'm trying to lighten up, it's not as accurate as I want it to be. So I don't care if somebody's complaining about I'm throwing it hard. They better catch it.”

Dolphins reporter Hal Habib can be reached and followed on Twitter@gunnerhal.