Posted: 11:24 am Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

An interview with Nu’Keese Richardson 

By Jason Lieser

In any story, there is never enough room to include every detail. Interesting aspects of a person’s life frequently are omitted for the sake of space.

That was the case with Sunday’s article on former Pahokee football star Nu’Keese Richardson. If you want to read that story, click here.

Richardson (No. 2) still hopes to reach the NFL from Division I-AA Hampton University. (Jerry S. Altares/Special to The Post)

Richardson (No. 2) still hopes to reach the NFL from Division I-AA Hampton University. (Jerry S. Altares/Special to The Post)

Richardson was a prized recruit with the Blue Devils and ultimately broke his commitment to Florida so he could sign with Lane Kiffin and Tennessee. He got off to a decent start with the Volunteers, but was arrested for attempted armed robbery in November and Tennessee kicked him out of school.

Richardson now hopes to restart his career at Hampton, a small Division I-AA program in Virginia.

Below is a transcript of one of Richardson’s interviews for the story. It is in his exact words. There are a few parenthetical notes for clarity.

There is one striking comment he made that you won’t find in the transcript. In an informal interview setting, Richardson mentioned how much he regrets spurning Urban Meyer and Florida. He said the biggest reason he opted against Florida was the fact that former Pahokee teammate Janoris Jenkins was already there and Richardson felt he would be stuck in Jenkins’ shadow if he signed with the Gators.

However, he said if he had been a Gator, he never would have gotten in trouble. The reason? Jenkins. Richardson believes Jenkins would have watched over him closely and kept him away from problematic situations.

That is an interesting theory. Jenkins was arrested in a nightclub incident last year.

Anyway, here is the Q&A session with Richardson:

Q. It’s a big step down from the SEC to Division I-AA. How is Hampton working out for you so far?

Richardson: “Definitely, it’s different. I came up here the first week and, I’m not going to lie, it was not the same for me. It humbles you, in a way. It’s really made me become a grown man. You’ve really got to be focused on what you’re doing and no one’s going to hand you nothing. You’ve really got to get it on your own.

“Hampton really changed me. It’s different. You have to adjust to it. If you don’t adjust, then you out, basically. I had no choice. I had to adjust to it and that’s what I did.

“Right now, my head’s good. I’m in love with Hampton. I’m growing up now. I’ve been through a lot of things in life and it’s really opened my eyes. It’s bigger than just football right now.”

Q: Are you going to stay here?

Richardson: “Oh yeah, definitely. All three years. The next three years. My degree, that’s what I want.”

Q: You could still go to junior college this fall. Why won’t you do that?

Richardson: “I could do that, but that’s something I don’t want to do. I refuse to do it. I’m here for good. I’m trying to make it my school.

“Half the time, you might not get out of juco. Juco’s worse than this. I can’t do no juco.”

Q: If not for the arrest, you wouldn’t be here. What events led to the incident at the convenience store?

Richardson: “It was nothing. I just got caught in the wrong time at the wrong place. Me, being the person that I am, I just let it slide. I felt like it’s God’s work. If he wanted me to be at Tennessee, I would still be at Tennessee. If he didn’t, that’s why I’m here now. I feel like it’s a blessing in disguise.

“We [Richardson and teammates Janzen Jackson and Mike Edwards] were just having fun. We had a little pellet gun and we were just shooting around at cans and stuff like that. We were bored. Nothing to do. We just went outside and were trying to see if we could shoot birds — who’s got the best aim, basically. That was it.

“Really, we was going to get a Black & Mild. We went to the store, I gave (Jackson) my money and stuff like that. (Edwards) was in the back; I was in the front. He tapped me on my shoulder like, ‘You see them people over there?’ He still had the pellet gun on him and stuff like that. He’s like, ‘You trying to get ‘em?’ But ‘get ‘em’… how we say ‘get ‘em’ is like fun. It’s all fun and games.

“I just got out the car, I opened the door and stuff like that and pointing the gun to (the victim’s) face. He looked at me. He smiled and stuff like that. I smiled back. That’s when Edwards came around the other side. He thought it was a robbery or something. He thought we was really trying to rob these people. That’s when he asked for the money and stuff like that. I told him, ‘No, we’re just playing, bro.’ That’s when I closed his door and went back to the car.

“That’s when I looked and I seen the cashier was out on a smoke break and I told (22-year-old Marie Montmarquet, who was with the Tennessee players and drove the car) to stop, to see what she was gonna do. I was like, I hope she think this wasn’t nothing serious. I just told (Montmarquet) to chill for a second and see what she was gonna do. She just went casually smoking and stuff like that, so, oh, ok, we good. We was on our way to the room and that’s when we seen two polices. I’m like, whoa, what’s going on? That’s when they pulled us. We cooperated and put our hands and did everything they ask.”

Q: When you saw the police car lights, did you know exactly what it was for?

Richardson: “I knew it, but then again, I didn’t want to know. They can’t be serious right now. That’s all I was thinking, ‘They cannot be serious about this.'”

Q: Did you panic?

Richardson: “Definitely I was scared. I wasn’t scared to the point of, ‘Oh man, it’s just over.’ I was like, ‘Man, what did I just do?’ I’m mad at myself for what I just got myself into. That’s why I’m mad at myself. Other than that, I just sucked it up.”

Q: You said it was basically a prank gone wrong, so are you surprised how much it ended up costing you?

Richardson: “Yeah, but it point-blank just wasn’t acceptable. It was fun and games, but it’s still stupid. You’ve got a free scholarship. Why would you go do this? It’s still dumb to me. I could have easily been like, ‘Take me back to the room. I’m not with that,’ but I didn’t. That’s something I’ve got to learn from.

“I’m not going to deny anything. I accept if I was wrong then I was wrong. I was wrong. I can’t blame it on nobody else. It was me. I’m going to be accountable for my own mistakes and I’m gonna have to deal with it. I’m gonna live with the consequence.”

Q: Were drugs or alcohol in play during any of this?

Richardson: “We were sober, all of us in our right mindset. It was just all fun and games.”

Q: Have drugs and alcohol been problem for you in the past?

Richardson: “In high school.”

Q: Did you smoke marijuana in high school?

Richardson: “I smoked marijuana and stuff like that. We would hang around the block, chillin, smoking, that was it. I’d just go back to the room and go to sleep, wake up the next morning and go to class.”

Q: Did that continue at Tennessee?

Richardson: “Yeah, a little bit. Anytime we go out, people want to buy you a drink and this and that. College. It was college. Man, I’m here, this is college, I’ll make the best of it.”

Q: Are you still tempted?

Richardson:”No. I’m trying to change. Stuff that I did in the past, I’m trying to get away from that. It’s something I’m not a part of. It’s available, but I just refuse to do it. I’m trying to change. My peoples know that. I’m not on that right now.”

Q: When was the last time you smoked marijuana?

Richardson: “Not since I left Tennessee. Since that little incident that went down, I talked to a lot of peoples and I knew if I was messed up when I was going to court, they could’ve drug tested me any time. I talked to my lawyer. I’m done with it. It’s a wrap.

“I never had a problem with it. It wasn’t nothing like that. I just smoked it occasionally.”

Q: Why should anyone believe you have quit?

“I’m trying to accomplish this, but this little minor stuff can hurt me. It can definitely hurt me. Money or a little bit of marijuana? I’m throwing that away. I’m trying to get this money. That’s what it came down to.

“My mind is totally focused right now. I don’t even party anymore. I don’t even go out. I go to a friend’s house and we all just kick it. As far as clubs and stuff, I don’t do. I haven’t been out since I’ve been up here. I’m trying to change. That’s part of change. I don’t have fun. Fun got me here. Fun’s what got me here. I’ve been there, done that. Did it all of my high school, did it my freshman year of college – partied, had fun. What am I missing? I’ll party when I’m successful. That’s when I’ll have fun.”

Q: You spent two days in jail. Was that your first time locked up?

Richardson: “Yes.”

Q: What was it like?

Richardson: “I always think about my mom [she died when Richardson was 8] and I thought about her in there. I thought, ‘Mom, please don’t let this go down like this. Please.’ I was begging her.

“It was somewhere I never want to be again. Just looking at the brick walls and not being able to go where I wanted to go or do what I wanted to do — it was killing me. Jail has you thinking about so much stuff.

“I was getting back in touch with God. I used to read little Bible scriptures to my little sister and brother every night. I used to go to church and be in the choir. It really made me go back to thinking about the old ways.”

Q: What else did you think about?

Richardson: “Life. My next step after this. If God bless me with a next opportunity, I’m going to make the best of it. I’m going to take advantage of it. I feel like I didn’t take advantage of being at Tennessee and that’s why I’m here now.”

Q: What were the other inmates like?

Richardson: “They’re real criminals. You had guys in there from about 18, 19 with murders. They killed someone. I was basically in there with murderers and robbers.

“I was just ready to get out. I gotta get out of here.”

Q: What did you and Lane Kiffin talk about after you were released from jail?

Richardson: “He basically talked about just helping me out. He was (upset). He definitely was. He called me over, came and talked. He told me before he released me what was going down, that he was going to release us. Before it hit the paper, he wanted to talk to us. We talked. Anything he can do or I need, he can help me with. Basically, that was it.”

Q: Do you feel like Kiffin betrayed you or let you down?

Richardson: “I’m not going to say that, because he really did help me. He was someone I could talk to. He cared. There is no problem between us. I still love him.”

Q: Prior to the arrest, were you happy at Tennessee?

Richardson: “At first, I was happy. Off the field, I was good. It’s just on the field, that’s when I had my issues and stuff like that. I wasn’t happy. I basically was going back and forth: one week I’m happy, one week I’m not. It was just back and forth.”

Q: Was playing time the main issue?

Richardson: “Yeah, it definitely was. I felt like I was the best player at the time and I felt like he was just holding me back. This is something I do. I felt like, if I wanted to do this, I could’ve stayed at Florida.”

Q: Who was holding you back?

Richardson: “Kiffin. I felt like he was just holding me back and I wasn’t happy.”

Q: You skipped a practice Nov. 1 and they said it was for personal reasons. Was it actually a family situation or was it more of a protest?

Richardson: “It was really both. I really didn’t want to be (at practice), but at the same time, something was going on back home with my aunt. It was both of them, really. It really had my mind. ‘I can’t go to practice today. I’m not going to perform well, so I’m not going to go out here and just be out here going through the motions.’ I went to one of my mentors’ house that I was really close with and we just sat down talking and stuff like that. Next day I came in and talked with Kiffin and let him know what was going on.”

Q: When did other colleges first begin contacting you?

Richardson: “Kiffin told me when I was locked up they was calling him. When I was in jail, they was calling him about me. He told me I was going to be straight. He told me I was going to have nothing to worry about. Anywhere you want to go, you still can go. It’s going to be harder, but do what you gotta do. I definitely had options.”

Q: How difficult was the choice to go to Division I-AA instead of going through a junior college and trying to return to a BCS program?

Richardson: “It was real difficult. I really just sat down by myself and thought about it. If I do this… I know what the college experience is about here. Do I want go back up (to a major college) and have all these people in my face and people throwing stuff at me again and have to go through that again, or just go to a D-I-AA where nobody knows me? Nobody even knows I’m here. Once it’s time for me to leave, if I go to the NFL, they’ll know then.”

Q: Hampton recruiting coordinator Stephen Field played at Palm Beach Lakes and is a former Glades Central coach. How instrumental was he in getting you to Hampton?

Richardson: “Coach Field is from Glades Central, so once I found out he was up here and another couple Belle Glade people [Hampton has two Glades Central players on the roster and another on the way as an incoming freshman], I was like, I might just come up here. He’s a real, cool guy. I love him to death. He’s been almost like a brother to me. Anything I need, anytime I need to talk to him, he’s there for me.

“He’s an honest guy and stuff like that. He’s going to tell you if you messing up. He not going to sugarcoat nothing. He’s going to tell you straight up: ‘You F-ing up. Get your mind right.’ That’s what I like. I don’t need no one just always in my corner. That’s not me. I don’t need a yes-man.”

Q: You had a lot of people in your ear telling you to go to junior college. Did that make your process more difficult?

Richardson: “It was a big issue. There was so much being said. People was calling my phone. I ain’t even thought about Hampton yet and they was like, ‘Don’t you go up there. That’s the worst decision you can make in your life.’ Instead of bringing me back up, they was talking me down. You’re supposed to be supporting me and this is something I want to do. They was bringing me down.

“It’s on me. If I fail, it’s on me. I’ve got to live with it, not you. Even though they family, they not going to put food on the table for me. It’s up to me, not them. If I make a wrong decision that they made for me, they’re going to look at me crazy. They’re going to turn their back on me and walk away. I know this type of stuff. Even though they family, you kind of know who your peoples are, people you can trust and can’t trust. This is on me. I can live with that.”

Q: You have basically grown up without stable, consistent parents. Has that left you open to a wide range of influences? Instead of two parents guiding you, it seems as though you have many people in your ear.

Richardson: “Sometimes. I’ve sat up plenty of nights and thought, ‘What if I’d had my mom and my pops? How would things have turned out?’ All these people that surround me… I’m in the middle and I’ve got a whole circle around me full of people that’s just always in my ear. It gets frustrating sometimes because I want to listen to that person, but I want to listen to that person, too.”

Q: When you were arrested and kicked out of Tennessee, did you feel as though you had let down the community in Pahokee?

Richardson: “Definitely. My little cousin, Merrill Noel, that was the main guy I just let down. We’ve been together since we was small. We fought together and everything. He’s the one that I felt… very talented, smart dude, humble… and he looks up to me. I can’t let this dude down. I can’t.”

Q: What was your reception last time you went home?

Richardson: “It was all love. Everybody just came up to me, making sure I’m all right, figure where I’m at and what I’m doing. I ain’t going to lie, I thought everybody was going to be like, ‘Oh, he’s just another scrub now,’ but that wasn’t the case. I came back home, worked out and stuff like that and it was still love there.”

Q: How do you feel about being on a smaller stage here at Hampton?

Richardson: “Honestly, I like that. I don’t like being in the spotlight. I don’t like when people see me and they’re pointing and want to come up. I’m here. No one knows me. A few people know me, but there’s not always someone wanting to come up and talk to you. I like it.

“That’s why I chose here, because I can just be chill, laidback and nobody will bother me. I can just focus on what I need to focus on, instead of being at a D-I where you’ve got so much going. You can get caught back in that lifestyle again and I’m not going that way. I’m trying to go the other route.”

Q: It’s hard to believe you didn’t enjoy your celebrity at Tennessee.

Richardson: “Of course you’re going to like when people are coming up to you and stuff like that, but it get tiring. It get tiring, though, when people always coming up to you wanting this and that. “

Q: How are you adjusting to the amenities at Hampton?

Richardson: “They have stuff, but they don’t have enough. I had to tell my aunt to send my cleats that I left in my room, to send them up because I ain’t have none. When I went back home, I got a couple gloves that I needed and brought them back up here. They really don’t have what a D-I program have. “I didn’t adjust all the way, but I’m getting better. Every week is getting better.

“Being here is making me a man. You can’t be spoiled all your life. You gotta get it on your own.”

Q: How much tougher is your road to the NFL now?

Richardson: “You’ve just gotta do what you do, man. I know what I can do. I’m going to prove it each and every week. I’m going to get better and I’m going to work. The coaches already know I’m going to work.”

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