TUSCALOOSA — For weeks, Trent Richardson watched the other potential top-10 NFL draft picks audition.
Minor knee surgery kept him sidelined at the pro scouting combine and Alabama’s first pro day March 7. The former Crimson Tide running back was eager for his shot, and Cleveland Browns assistant coach Gary Brown can no doubt confirm it.
Richardson sent Brown flying to the turf on a blocking drill that cracked up the crowd inside the Alabama indoor training facility Thursday morning. NFL coaches Jason Garrett (Cowboys), Pat Shurmur (Browns) and Nick Saban’s close friend Bill Belichick (Patriots) attended the nationally televised event.
Running his first 40-yard dash of the pre-draft season, Richardson recorded times between 4.45 and 4.49 seconds. Other potential high-round picks Mark Barron and Courtney Upshaw also took part Thursday after injuries kept them from participating in the early-March version.
Richardson’s hit on the Browns’ running backs coach was easily the highlight of the day.
“You know (Alabama backs coach Burton) Burns didn’t try to go head up with us too many times cause we probably would have pushed him over, too,” Richardson said with a smile, “But anytime somebody is in my way, I’m going to try to knock them over.”
Running back and receiving drills werealso heavily observed by the large crowd of coaches and scouts. Richardson struggled at times hauling in close-range, speedy pass, but drew an audible reaction with a one-handed stab on a corner route near the end zone.
Saban said Richardson was the best running back and possibly one of the best overall prospects for the April 26-28 draft.
“I know there are some people that have some concerns about taking a running back high, but as I said earlier, with the salary cap changes in a rookie pool, you’re not investing as much in a guy as you used to,” Saban said. “You’d better take somebody that you know is going to be a good player on your team and be a good fit for you, be a starter and be somebody who’s a good player for a long time.”
The next few weeks will include several individual workouts with franchises owning early round picks. Richardson said his agent arranged meetings with Cleveland (No. 4 pick), Tampa Bay (No. 5) and St. Louis (No. 6) among others.
“There hasn’t been a top 10 running back since Adrian Peterson, and I want to set the bar high and put us back on the map,” Richardson said. “We need to be in the top ten we need to be that high ’cause a lot of team try to beat up on us, but when it comes down to it they needs us early in our career to try to get a contract and big step with it.”
Part of Richardson’s mystique is his weight room reputation. The 5-foot-10, 227-pound running back did 25 reps on the 225-pound bench press. He said he “could have done better,” but packing all the physical tests into one morning was a factor.
Center William Vlachos did 31 reps on the bench, but all eyes were on Richardson on Thursday.
Every step he took was recorded by a camera crew. Even family members were interviewed. Richardson broke down laughing when big brother Terrell was cornered by the cameras.
It was all part of the circus that he’s grown accustomed to.
“It’s just like a game for real, because even then you have scouts in the press box and stuff,” Richardson said. “But I just have fun with it and don’t take it too serious, or be uptight, just relax and just be me.”