For Josh Richardson, relief found at every corner

Oklahoma destruction seen up close

Tennessee men’s basketball player Josh Richardson (yellow hat) and assistant men’s basketball coach Jon Harris, right, work on a Habitat for Humanity project on Saturday in East Knoxville.

Tennessee men’s basketball player Josh Richardson (yellow hat) and assistant men’s basketball coach Jon Harris, right, work on a Habitat for Humanity project on Saturday in East Knoxville.

tom satkowiak/tennessee athletics
Josh Richardson (yellow hat) and Tennessee men’s basketball teammate D’Montre Edwards carry wood during a Habitat for Humanity project Saturday in East Knoxville.

tom satkowiak/tennessee athletics Josh Richardson (yellow hat) and Tennessee men’s basketball teammate D’Montre Edwards carry wood during a Habitat for Humanity project Saturday in East Knoxville.

Josh Richardson

Josh Richardson

UT athletes volunteer for Habitat for Humanity build

A certain irony resonated from every hammered nail from Josh Richardson.

“I’m here building a house right now and everything in Oklahoma is destroyed,” the Tennessee junior said Saturday morning, coated in sawdust-crusted sweat.

Richardson spent the morning in East Knoxville — a few blocks from where Martin Luther King Jr. Ave. merges into Asheville Highway. He was joined by his UT men’s basketball teammates and members of the football and Lady Vols basketball teams.

The sun was already relentless by 7:30 a.m. An inconvenience, yes. A deterrent, no. The orange Vols were shoulder-to-shoulder with volunteers from Habitat for Humanity.

The project: A house.

The goal: Put a family in it.

About 900 miles west of the construction sits storm-ravaged Oklahoma City and its surrounding areas. Among them are the cities of Edmond, Richardson’s hometown, and Moore, a town so battered by tornadoes that 17 of the 19 stories on the local newspaper’s website Saturday were weather-related.

An E-5 tornado etched a 17-mile long, 1-mile wide warpath through Moore on May 20. Twenty-four were killed and more than 200 were injured in a storm with winds exceeding 200 miles per hour.

One day before the devastation in Moore, Richardson was working out at his local gym in Edmond, about 15 miles north of downtown Oklahoma City. The sky greyed, drawing Richardson and two friends outside.

“We saw the clouds, like, start swirling right behind us,” he recounted Saturday. “So we sped to my house to make sure my parents were cool. We just stayed there through the storms and it calmed down.”

A tornado touched down one street southeast from the house. Only minor injuries were reported. Some roofs were damaged and power outages caused inconveniences. All and all, it was minor compared to what was ahead.

“I’m used to it,” Richardson said. “There’s a reason we have a storm cellar.”

Then May 20 arrived. Richardson, having had his wisdom teeth pulled, was relegated to a bed. A television served as his window. Moore is a half hour south of Edmond.

“It was crazy seeing what was happening on TV,” Richardson said. “I was just lying in bed all day, hoping it didn’t come my way.”

It never did. Richardson went the following day to visit a friend in South Oklahoma City, which borders Moore to the west. He arrived before the relief effort expanded beyond the most impacted areas.

“I drove through it and saw some stuff,” he said. “It was really bad. The first thing I saw when we exited off — there used to be a building there, but it was just in shambles. It was a giant pile of rubble. Then there were some houses that were just gone.

“It’s weird. It’s sad. You don’t get used to seeing places that you’ve known before, that are just gone.”

Friday night brought a new surge of severe weather to Central Oklahoma. At least nine were killed. This time, Richardson was in Knoxville, following on social media. His friends and family were again unscathed.

“I’m so thankful,” he said.

Saturday’s project with Habitat for Humanity will come in handy for Richardson later in the summer. He plans on returning home to join the relief effort.

“It’s cool to be here and do this,” Richardson said. “But there’s a lot of work that needs to be done back home.”

Brendan F. Quinn covers Tennessee men’s basketball. Follow him at Twitter.com/BFQuinn

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Comments » 14

rclarkvols#224537 writes:

Nice to have such a quality young man representing our university.

Witch_Doctors writes:

Witch Doctor agree with rclarkvols. Witch Doctor say hes become one of Witch Doctors favorite players...loves the college experience, leaves it all on the court and takes this opportunity to serve. Witch Doctor say Martin struck gold with JR.
Bones never lie.

ULTIMATEVOLUNTEER writes:

in response to rclarkvols#224537:

Nice to have such a quality young man representing our university.

Ditto

philgreen5#410561 writes:

in response to rclarkvols#224537:

Nice to have such a quality young man representing our university.

Agreed... we need more of the good stories and less of the bad.

mocsandvolsfan writes:

Really cool stuff.

volfan2002 writes:

Josh Richardson is the perfect definition of a student athlete. He has been a huge asset to the University of Tennessee setting an example all should follow.

decades_vol (Inactive) writes:

in response to volfan2002:

Josh Richardson is the perfect definition of a student athlete. He has been a huge asset to the University of Tennessee setting an example all should follow.

Started to add a comment, but I believe yours says it all.

SouthPaVol writes:

in response to Witch_Doctors:

Witch Doctor agree with rclarkvols. Witch Doctor say hes become one of Witch Doctors favorite players...loves the college experience, leaves it all on the court and takes this opportunity to serve. Witch Doctor say Martin struck gold with JR.
Bones never lie.

W-D, one of my favorite players as well. JR has heart, and a nice pull-up jump shot.

BigBadVol writes:

Nice story followed by nice comments. Refreshing.

87Volforlife writes:

It is really good when we can get intelligent AND athletically gifted athletes like Josh Richardson to represent UT. I get the feeling Josh Dobbs is going to be one of those really smart athletes as well. What set's Josh Richardson apart in my mind though, is he screams of good character. God gave him the smarts and skills, but his parents raised a fine young man. 3 stars or 5 stars, I want more people like Josh Richardson wearing orange!

Witch_Doctors writes:

in response to SouthPaVol:

W-D, one of my favorite players as well. JR has heart, and a nice pull-up jump shot.

Witch Doctor believe we still havent seen his best game. Witch Doctor say he is all Vol for sure.
Bones never lie.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to 87Volforlife:

It is really good when we can get intelligent AND athletically gifted athletes like Josh Richardson to represent UT. I get the feeling Josh Dobbs is going to be one of those really smart athletes as well. What set's Josh Richardson apart in my mind though, is he screams of good character. God gave him the smarts and skills, but his parents raised a fine young man. 3 stars or 5 stars, I want more people like Josh Richardson wearing orange!

Ditto. Seeing young people grow as athletes and citizens is a big reason why we care about them. Richardson could be All-SEC this year and I am really looking forward to seeing what Dobbs will bring to the table.

tennrich1 writes:

While I too am really proud of Josh I think we have some of the best, moral, real deal kids at UT than I have seen since maybe the Reggie White/Alan Duncan days...kids like Drae Bowles etc...really glad they are here!!!!

Olddogsrule writes:

To see Josh and the other men and women athletes Volunteering to help build a HFH house is heartwarming. I wish there was some way Volunteer fans could send Josh home to tornado ravaged Oklahoma with a truckload of essential items for distribution to those who lost everything ... everything. In any event, now is a good time to contact the Red Cross with your credit card in hand.

Thank you Josh, and all your brother and sister athletes for being Torchbearers of the Volunteer spirit!

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