Just got off the phone with former NMSU safety Derrick Richardson, who's battling it out at Pittsburgh Steelers' camp.
Derrick was a great player at NMSU, leading the team in tackles last season and recording over 100 take downs the past two years. He played with great passion and enthusiasm everytime on the field and was a bright spot in the program.
Derrick said he felt good about his chances with Pittsburgh. He felt comfortable with head coach Mike Tomlin and defensive coordinator Dick LeBeau. He's out there with some great players — Troy Polamalu, James Harrison and Ike Taylor — to name a few.
One thing about players from NMSU, really, it's small, non-BCS schools in general, is that they have to go above and beyond the call of duty to get a look. I remember speaking to a former Aggie last year who got a shot with a pro team. He said that he felt like a top pick could make a bunch of mistakes and have them overlooked. The former Aggie, on the other hand, said that he felt like one mistake on his behalf could cost him his opportunity at pro ball. I guess it's just a fact of life in sports, but it's unfortunate for some that could be solid pros. They seem to have more to prove.
One thing that I thought was great about speaking with Derrick was that he said his attitude for the game hasn't changed. Richardson played with boundless energy every snap for the Aggies, running around the field, talking it up with both his defensive teammates and offensive foes — just loved playing the game and having fun. He said that when he first got to Steelers' camp in early May, he held back a little bit, cautious of what some veterans would think of a rowdy rookie. But, as he has gotten more comfortable, his true colors have shown through.
“When I first got here, I fell back and didn't want guys to look at me the wrong way,” Richardson said. “I was quiet at first. But, the more practices I go through, the better I feel about stepping out and being me on the field. My true character is coming out more and more.”
That's a good thing. In a lot of ways, that true character is what makes Richardson an effective football player. Hopefully, he never loses that fire for the game.