From The Kansas City Star
By Randy Covitz
Each year, it seems, a young, unknown free agent receiver makes a splash in the Chiefs training camp and preseason games after the starters are replaced. A couple of years ago, it was Jeremy Horne. Remember Bobby Sippio?
This year’s version is Rico Richardson, an undrafted free agent from Jackson State, whose flapping ponytail and bursts of speed resemble veteran Dexter McCluster.
“When Rico first came in,” McCluster said, “Jon Baldwin asked, ‘Is that your brother?’ But it’s something about the hair.”
Richardson, the Southwestern Athletic Conference Offensive Player of the Year in 2012, is a long shot to make the Chiefs’ 53-man roster. But he’s overcome the odds before. Richardson wasn’t highly recruited coming out of Natchez, Miss., but enjoyed a productive career at Jackson State, where he was a big-play receiver.
“I guess it was my size, coming out of high school, coming out of college, I was under the radar,” Richardson said, “but all my life I’ve proven everyone wrong, and showed I could do it, and now I’m here.”
Richardson used his 4.38 speed to become a big-play receiver at Jackson State, the alma mater of the Chiefs’ first-round draft pick in 2000, Sylvester Morris. He caught 37 passes for 897 yards (a 24.2-yard average) with 11 touchdowns in 2011. He caught 60 passes for 1,153 yards (a 19.2-yard average) with 11 scores last season in helping Jackson State to the SWAC championship game.
“I love running the deep route,” Richardson said. “Either I’m going to win, or they’re going to hold. I’m always going to win the deep route, so it’s my favorite route. And if I’m running the short route, I get yards after the catch. That’s what it’s all about.”
Still, Richardson, listed at 6-1, 185, went undrafted last spring and signed with the Chiefs, largely because the team didn’t draft any receivers, and he thought that would help his chances at making the team. Richardson is buried on the depth chart, running mostly with the third unit, but whenever he’s had a chance on the practice field, he’s made plays.
“I think I’m doing excellent,” he said. “I’m making plays, I’m impressing the coaches … you just don’t get as many reps, so you just don’t know. You run in your mind, how am I doing? Are they going to keep me? Special teams … anything … you’re always wondering.”
Richardson, who was born in New Orleans, where he still has family, expects to have about 40 friends and family from nearby Natchez as well as from New Orleans, in the Superdome for Friday night’s preseason opener.
Chiefs backup quarterback Chase Daniel said Richardson has made the most of his limited opportunities on the practice field.
“Rico’s had a great camp,” Daniel said. “He’s super fast, he’s super agile in his routes. He knows what he’s doing, he gets in the playbook. He’s a smart receiver, and given the right chance in this offense, he’s going to succeed.
“Those guys understand they’re vying for this job, they want to be here, but also in preseason, you’re putting it on film for 31 other teams.”