Adams: Size doesn't matter to Richardson

John Adams

The first time I saw Nu'Keese Richardson with the football in a Tennessee practice, I wanted to hit "rewind." He went from one side of the field to the other so fast, the whole thing was a blur.

At the midpoint of his run, the UT quarterback turned and made a short pitch, which Richardson caught in stride. Although the Vols have run the same play in each of the last few practices, familiarity hasn't eliminated the element of surprise. It's not the play. It's the player, a 5-foot-something ("5-10 or 5-9," he says when asked) freshman from Pahokee, Fla.

He's generously listed at 165 pounds, but he looks bigger every time I see him on the practice field.

You immediately think about the difficult transition from high school to college for a player that size. But it's evident after a week of practices, that he's not the only one who will have to adjust. So will anyone trying to cover him or get an arm around his tiny waist.

The guy can play. And he has plenty of experience negotiating his way through a sport of giants.

He started playing football when he was 8. Guess what? He was the smallest player on the field, then, too.

He's not just used to it. He likes it.

When you're the little guy in a game as rough as football, you learn how to take a hit -and more importantly, you learn how to avoid one. You also learn to take advantages of your opponents' misconceptions.

"They look at my size and think it's all about speed, not knowing about my jumping ability," Richardson said at UT's football media day Sunday.

His athleticism was obvious in the first week of practice. But it was hardly unexpected if you checked his football resume.

He ran a 10.5-second 100 meters in track. He played point guard and off-ball guard on his high school basketball team. And if you saw him soar above defenders to make a catch in practice, you wouldn't have to ask if he could dunk.

He helped his football team win three consecutive state championships. He started out as a quarterback, took up wide receiver as a junior and played both as a senior. His stats reflect his versatility: 274 yards rushing, 373 yards receiving and 1,020 yards passing in his senior season.

His high school success made him a recruiting target - albeit a slippery one, Florida would contend. Richardson first committed to the Gators, then made a spin move to UT and head coach Lane Kiffin, who offered recruits an early opportunity for playing time if they were up to it. That pitch must have been irresistible to Richardson, who has been proving he's bigger than he looks since he caught his first pass.

His mom, Cynthia Richardson, threw that first pass. As protective as she might have been of the smallest player on the team, she didn't discourage him from playing football once she understood his passion for it.

"She knew I had a big heart," he said. "I've never been scared of no one in my whole life. If I wanted to do something, she knew I was going to do it."

The way he describes their connection, she probably wouldn't be surprised at what her son has accomplished. As a track athlete and cheerleader, she also could identify with it - if she were here to see it. Cynthia died when Nu'Keese was only 10.

Other women helped finish what his mother started. He lived with an aunt in Syracuse, then moved back to Florida to stay with a grandmother.

"I've always been a momma's boy," he said. "Nothing but women raised me."

But the first woman in his life is the one who taught him to throw and catch. And she was the first to realize what so many others would figure out later.

Once Nu'Keese had a football in his hands, his size didn't matter.

Sports editor John Adams may be reached at 865-342-6284 or adamsj@knoxnews.com.

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Comments » 49

movol77 writes:

2nd

cloudodust writes:

Heart hath no boundries...

CT_VOL writes:

Wow, what a great story unfolding. I hope this kid helps the vols light up the SEC this year!

Frank

RoadTrip writes:

Great story. Helps give us perspective on what is important and what drives Nuke. Here is one Vol that wishes him the best in life and on the field, in that order.

KJVol writes:

Nice article, John. Really looking forward to seeing Nu'Keese slash through the Gator defense taking it to the house, and seeing two things: Meyer's stunned look, with maybe a tear or two, and seeing the Vol faithful erupt.

hotrodvol writes:

He will be a special player during his UT career. I'm already a fan of his just because he flipped on the gators.

pdhuff#552644 writes:

Keep it up, young man.

Excitement and passion will return to Neyland Stadium.

InertGas writes:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

MemphisVol1485 writes:

in response to InertGas:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Ha!!!

99gator writes:

the more players kiffin is able to bring in like nukeese......

the more everyone will understand how bare the cupboard was when kiffin was hired.

adams comment "it's not the play. it's the player."

it appears maybe there is some higher learning going on up on the hill.

vol_chaz writes:

Nuke will see lots of early playing time. Glad he's a vol..

OldSmokey writes:

Glad you are here Nuke!!! Good read John, please keep it up!

ClearVol writes:

in response to long_vol:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Uh, yeah, what exactly was your point there with the Larry Seivers thing?..

Voluvr writes:

He will prove to be Florida's worst nightmare.

kman29 writes:

in response to Voluvr:

He will prove to be Florida's worst nightmare.

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

PHIVOL writes:

Please have some consideration for protection of the playbook....it makes no sense at all (if you have any loyalty to Tennessee) to reveal anything about any player and any special play. If you have any sense of loyalty then please disguise your content.

ibvolman writes:

in response to kman29:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Wow! You mean the Gators use 5-6 footballs on each play? Go away idiot!

chargervol writes:

Florida will lose two games this year. Too much hype and expectations. They have everybody back from last year's team. The Vols had everybody back in 1999. There were alot of hype and expectations. GO VOLS!!!

jimr07 writes:

in response to PHIVOL:

Please have some consideration for protection of the playbook....it makes no sense at all (if you have any loyalty to Tennessee) to reveal anything about any player and any special play. If you have any sense of loyalty then please disguise your content.

Man, you are talking about KNS here. Loyalty to UT? You are joking right?

bnakk#240693 writes:

"It is not the size of the dog in the fight, it is the size of the fight in the dog".

txvolsfan writes:

in response to chargervol:

Florida will lose two games this year. Too much hype and expectations. They have everybody back from last year's team. The Vols had everybody back in 1999. There were alot of hype and expectations. GO VOLS!!!

I do think they lose 1 game but don't know about 2. I don't think they win the NC this year and that could be what pushes Cryer out because of the expectations he has created.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to PHIVOL:

Please have some consideration for protection of the playbook....it makes no sense at all (if you have any loyalty to Tennessee) to reveal anything about any player and any special play. If you have any sense of loyalty then please disguise your content.

Well, sure! NOBODY runs a toss-sweep reverse to the WR! We would have shocked the world the first time we rolled that one out; darned KNS(;-P)!

give_him_6 writes:

good article john

volstokke writes:

Hopefully Richardson gives us a much needed playmaker. Maybe he is the guy we should use in a G-Gun formation b/c of versatility. Everyone new last year it was gonna be a run. Maybe Richardson can provide a big spark.

crimsonviper writes:

in response to elaineismygirl:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

He is fast no doubt.If he could run as fast as you change usernames he would be a rocket.

cmoore7 writes:

Nuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuke!

finn writes:

Nuke sounds like a good kid and I hope he continues to exceed everyone's expectations. Some little men have had a big impact on the pros. Just ask Warrick Dunn if he was too small to play.

kman29 writes:

in response to chargervol:

Florida will lose two games this year. Too much hype and expectations. They have everybody back from last year's team. The Vols had everybody back in 1999. There were alot of hype and expectations. GO VOLS!!!

Had had everyone back?

QB Tee Martin
WR Peerless Price
RB Shawn Bryson
LB Al Wilson

Sorry but you can't compare the two situations when your refering to a UT team who lost their starting QB, best WR, RB and best defensive player. That would be like UF going into this season without Tebow, Harvin, Demps and Spikes. Secondly, the guys that did return in '99 for UT, that was their first time ever defending a title. This '09 UF team has already done it. They know what to expect from what they faced in '07 as defending champs.

kman29 writes:

in response to ibvolman:

Wow! You mean the Gators use 5-6 footballs on each play? Go away idiot!

Did you really just write that? Ok, I know this is difficult to comprehend, but in practice the UF defense lines up and sees on average, Cooper, Thompson, Moore and Debose at WR. Then look in the backfield and see either Demps or Rainey at RB. You really think UT is going to bring something more complicated to defend than that because they have Richardson? Im not trying to trash UT or anything, but thats just the way it is right now. Seeing a player like Richardson would be nothing new to UF defense because there are Richardson's all over the field on UFs offense.

kman29 writes:

in response to txvolsfan:

I do think they lose 1 game but don't know about 2. I don't think they win the NC this year and that could be what pushes Cryer out because of the expectations he has created.

And this deep insight you have on them not winning a national title is based off of what? Hope? Hope that what you say will happen because your tired of having to face a great coach like Meyer year after year and getting beat? Its funny, most of you all want to win, but it seems as if you want to win by attrition. You want Meyer gone, you want Saban gone, the two biggest threats to the success of the Vols. You use to want Spurrier gone, but now he doesn't do to much damage so he is accepted. Unfortunatly for fans like yourself, that isnt going to happen. If Kiffin and UT want to be the best, they are going to have to beat the best. And with the two best coaches in the country on UTs schedule every year, thats going to be a tougher task than you all would really like.

By the way, Meyer didnt create the expectations at Florida, Spurrier did. Meyer just embrassed them.

cc623 writes:

It amazes me Kman that you are so proud of your gators but,you and the rest of these sh@t talkers are on a Tennessee Vols site.I know it's hard for you guys to stay away from this great team and their fans but,for your own "self respect"(I know that doesn't fit well since you guys are probably just jumping on the bandwagon after they actually won a NC and not true fans)go visit your own team's site if they will have you.It kills you guys that there is something new in Knoxville and that you won't get to see Phil clapping while the Gators blow us out anymore but,"curiosity killed the cat(or gator up to you)"and sooner or later you guys will fall back to your rightful and normal place at the bottom.nuff said

WytheVol writes:

in response to kman29:

And this deep insight you have on them not winning a national title is based off of what? Hope? Hope that what you say will happen because your tired of having to face a great coach like Meyer year after year and getting beat? Its funny, most of you all want to win, but it seems as if you want to win by attrition. You want Meyer gone, you want Saban gone, the two biggest threats to the success of the Vols. You use to want Spurrier gone, but now he doesn't do to much damage so he is accepted. Unfortunatly for fans like yourself, that isnt going to happen. If Kiffin and UT want to be the best, they are going to have to beat the best. And with the two best coaches in the country on UTs schedule every year, thats going to be a tougher task than you all would really like.

By the way, Meyer didnt create the expectations at Florida, Spurrier did. Meyer just embrassed them.

I have to agree with you KMan... To be the best, you have the BEAT the best. The SEC is packed with top-notch coaches and players such as those at UF, UGA, LSU, Alabama, Ole Miss.. Hopefully Kiffin's name will be amoung those like Meyer, Richt, Saban and even Spurrier soon (in terms of coaching ability). I love having the competition. If we win em all, we have beaten some of the best teams in the country, being in the SEC. There will never be any questions such as those USC face, having to play a weak conference schedule many times. Lets face it, there is no where better to be than the SEC!! I love my VOLS but I have tremendous respect for the SEC and the schedule each team faces year in and year out. I personally don't want Meyer to leave, for that reason, unless of course he is replaced by someone that is as good a coach, I don't like playing games that we know we are going to win. That's how complacency starts (see UT vs Wyoming...App St vs Mich..etc...). I don't truly believe that any true Vol Fan wants Meyer to leave either and that it is just smack talk ruffling the feathers of you Gator fans. The loss of great coaches diminishes the power and respect of our conference, and no one wants that!

givehim6 writes:

This year UT-UF game will definitely not look like it has the past few years. I am not predict a win but a brawl will happen. UT has a better chance of pulling off an upset than thay have had in a few years.

kman29 writes:

in response to cc623:

It amazes me Kman that you are so proud of your gators but,you and the rest of these sh@t talkers are on a Tennessee Vols site.I know it's hard for you guys to stay away from this great team and their fans but,for your own "self respect"(I know that doesn't fit well since you guys are probably just jumping on the bandwagon after they actually won a NC and not true fans)go visit your own team's site if they will have you.It kills you guys that there is something new in Knoxville and that you won't get to see Phil clapping while the Gators blow us out anymore but,"curiosity killed the cat(or gator up to you)"and sooner or later you guys will fall back to your rightful and normal place at the bottom.nuff said

Well you can find my "bandwagon" self in my seats on 9/19 in the Sunshine Endzone in section 326, row 26 seats 16 and 17. Because you know all us "bandwagon" fans own season tickets for all the teams we root for.

As for your ranting and raving...not sure exactly what any of that has to do with my posts. But as I have said a million times on here before, I enjoy going to other rival teams sites and seeing what is being said. If something is said in regards to Florida, I will respond. Not once will you ever see me initiate a converation about UF first in here. I go to UGAs site on AJC.com, FSU's on Tallahassee.com along with many other fans and do the same, but for whatever reason Vol fans on here are the ONLY ones who complain or try to turn it into other fans being "jealous".

In regards to you "falling back to the bottom" comment. Come on, give it up. I know you have probably been brain washed into thinking that Florida was successful just yesterday and probably not familiar with the fact that UF has not had a losing season in 30 years or the fact that since 1980 they have the best record in the SEC. So chances are you cant even remember the last time UF was at the "bottom" which you refer to as being their normal place.

chargervol writes:

in response to kman29:

Had had everyone back?

QB Tee Martin
WR Peerless Price
RB Shawn Bryson
LB Al Wilson

Sorry but you can't compare the two situations when your refering to a UT team who lost their starting QB, best WR, RB and best defensive player. That would be like UF going into this season without Tebow, Harvin, Demps and Spikes. Secondly, the guys that did return in '99 for UT, that was their first time ever defending a title. This '09 UF team has already done it. They know what to expect from what they faced in '07 as defending champs.

Tee Martin was the quarterback. I'll give you Al as being a big hole to fill. He was the inspirational leader on the defense. But, there are still similarities with the two teams. And , as far as what was expected in '08 after '07, tell us what happened. Florida will lose two games. The talk about Nukeese being small, did you ever see Peerless in person? Those kind of kids have a heart the size of footballs. They have had to prove themselves all of their lives. GO VOLS!!!

allvol32 writes:

Good article Mr. Adams. Nu'Keese seems to have a lot of heart and character to go along with his unquestioned athletic ability. Welcome to Tennessee Nu'Keese!!!

kman29 writes:

in response to chargervol:

Tee Martin was the quarterback. I'll give you Al as being a big hole to fill. He was the inspirational leader on the defense. But, there are still similarities with the two teams. And , as far as what was expected in '08 after '07, tell us what happened. Florida will lose two games. The talk about Nukeese being small, did you ever see Peerless in person? Those kind of kids have a heart the size of footballs. They have had to prove themselves all of their lives. GO VOLS!!!

Your missing the point. Your saying that Florida is going to lose at least 2 games because they wont be able to handle the expectations, but what you dont realize is a majority of the teams starters already experienced that in defending the 2006 title. In 2007 most of the current starters were freshmen and sophmores. They experienced the lumps that came with thinking they were going to automatically win simply because they did the season before. Now they have that opporunity again, which is very rare (defending a title twice). That experience alone accounts for a lot in knowing how to handle the expectations of the upcoming season. As for Richardson being small, I never commented anything about that being a negative. I simply said that Florida has 6 to 7 Richardsons already on their team. Whats funny is UT fan use to make fun of the 5'6- 5'7 Brandon James, Jeff Demps, Chris Raineys and how UF just recruited midgets because they were fast. Now all of a sudden UT has a similar player and they are full of heart. lol!

hueypilot writes:

I can't believe we don't have some Florida troll on here saying they didn't want Richardson and pulled off of him late.

chargervol writes:

in response to kman29:

Your missing the point. Your saying that Florida is going to lose at least 2 games because they wont be able to handle the expectations, but what you dont realize is a majority of the teams starters already experienced that in defending the 2006 title. In 2007 most of the current starters were freshmen and sophmores. They experienced the lumps that came with thinking they were going to automatically win simply because they did the season before. Now they have that opporunity again, which is very rare (defending a title twice). That experience alone accounts for a lot in knowing how to handle the expectations of the upcoming season. As for Richardson being small, I never commented anything about that being a negative. I simply said that Florida has 6 to 7 Richardsons already on their team. Whats funny is UT fan use to make fun of the 5'6- 5'7 Brandon James, Jeff Demps, Chris Raineys and how UF just recruited midgets because they were fast. Now all of a sudden UT has a similar player and they are full of heart. lol!

Florida is the biggest target in the SEC right now. They will get everybody's best shot. Anybody can beat anybody from week to week(Wyoming/Tennessee, Appy St./Michigan,Ole Miss/Florida). The media has worn out the gator love. There is alot of gator hate among the other conference teams, not only in Tennessee. And, as far as throwing off on your small receivers, never have. We had this one kid in our neighborhood who was small and thin. We would play sandlot football games. We would hit him so hard it would knock a brick wall down. I can't count the times he would flip in the air, land on his feet and take it to the house while we stood in amazement. He was fast, quick and very acrobatic. One of the toughest guys I have ever known. He was the one that taught me to never under estimate any opponent. GO VOLS!!!

deadheadvol writes:

Great article, I cant wait to see Florida get "Nuked" by UT,probably wont happen this year, but IT WILL HAPPEN, soon, mark it down. Go Vols

gnm53108 writes:

Good article John.

You do know Nu'Keese is gonna be playing for the Vols right?

Are you feeling ok?

kman29 writes:

in response to chargervol:

Florida is the biggest target in the SEC right now. They will get everybody's best shot. Anybody can beat anybody from week to week(Wyoming/Tennessee, Appy St./Michigan,Ole Miss/Florida). The media has worn out the gator love. There is alot of gator hate among the other conference teams, not only in Tennessee. And, as far as throwing off on your small receivers, never have. We had this one kid in our neighborhood who was small and thin. We would play sandlot football games. We would hit him so hard it would knock a brick wall down. I can't count the times he would flip in the air, land on his feet and take it to the house while we stood in amazement. He was fast, quick and very acrobatic. One of the toughest guys I have ever known. He was the one that taught me to never under estimate any opponent. GO VOLS!!!

Honestly, even when Florida isn't defending a title they get everyones best shot week after week. Its nothing new. Since Spurrier first came to UF, Florida has had a hatred toward them from almost every school and almost every school on Florida's schedule circles them as their biggest game of the year or one of the biggest. Its been that way for nearly 20 seasons. Even during the Zook years that happened because people wanted to get in on saying they beat Florida. So in that aspect I dont think too much changes with how teams approach Florida when they play them this season compared to previous.

tennezz writes:

in response to kman29:

Well you can find my "bandwagon" self in my seats on 9/19 in the Sunshine Endzone in section 326, row 26 seats 16 and 17. Because you know all us "bandwagon" fans own season tickets for all the teams we root for.

As for your ranting and raving...not sure exactly what any of that has to do with my posts. But as I have said a million times on here before, I enjoy going to other rival teams sites and seeing what is being said. If something is said in regards to Florida, I will respond. Not once will you ever see me initiate a converation about UF first in here. I go to UGAs site on AJC.com, FSU's on Tallahassee.com along with many other fans and do the same, but for whatever reason Vol fans on here are the ONLY ones who complain or try to turn it into other fans being "jealous".

In regards to you "falling back to the bottom" comment. Come on, give it up. I know you have probably been brain washed into thinking that Florida was successful just yesterday and probably not familiar with the fact that UF has not had a losing season in 30 years or the fact that since 1980 they have the best record in the SEC. So chances are you cant even remember the last time UF was at the "bottom" which you refer to as being their normal place.

If you think you are on top to stay your an idiot! Ask Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Alabama, Penn State, or Notre Dame If you think you are there to stay!!!

kman29 writes:

in response to tennezz:

If you think you are on top to stay your an idiot! Ask Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Alabama, Penn State, or Notre Dame If you think you are there to stay!!!

Did at any point I ever say Florida was on top to stay? I believe if you read the post you will see me simply responding to the comment that Florida will be back on the BOTTOM where they usually are. I simply wanted to know what time period this poster was refering to. If you have to go back 30 plus years to find Florida at the bottom, I wouldnt exactly stat that is where they usually are.

ThaiVolFan writes:

in response to hotrodvol:

He will be a special player during his UT career. I'm already a fan of his just because he flipped on the gators.

I second that hotrod.
GBO!

DC_Vol writes:

in response to ThePhantom_96_06_08:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Well Phantom,

I am just glad that Nukeese Richardson is faster than Demps in the forty. I think you and everyone will agree I would rather have a football player faster in the 40 than the 100. Nukeese is quicker of the line and lets face it most quarterbacks don't throw routs much past 40 yards.

According to Rivals:

Jeff Demps 4.46
http://footballrecruiting.rivals.com/...

Nukeese Richardson 4.45

http://footballrecruiting.rivals.com/...

Demps must have incredible speed after reaches forty yards, because according to you in the next sixty yards, he shaves off a whole half second compared to Nukeese. Absolutely amazing, I would like to see that one. HA HA Let me guess you had a stop watch in your back yard when you timed them right? LOL

UTahVOL writes:

in response to finn:

Nuke sounds like a good kid and I hope he continues to exceed everyone's expectations. Some little men have had a big impact on the pros. Just ask Warrick Dunn if he was too small to play.

darren sproles comes to mind as well.

khelton657 writes:

XLNT article from John Adams...xlnt youg man too....good to see what is inisde these young men...

Whiskey_Wizard writes:

I HAD NO IDEA OF THE LOSS OF HIS MOM. GLAD SHE THREW HIM THAT FIRST FBALL. MAY HIS PLAY REPRESENT NOT JUST HIM, BUT HER, AND HIS WHOLE FAMILY THAT RAISED HIM.

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