Richardson Ready for Act III "The Liberty Bowl"
AMES, Iowa - Iowa State quarterback Sam Richardson grew up in the shadow of Walt Disney World's Enchanted Castle. But his sudden emergence as Iowa State's quarterback of choice in the last two games is no fantasy. An unlikely tale perhaps, but this signal-caller's performance in games against Kansas and West Virginia is 100 percent non-fiction.
Richardson came to Iowa State from Winter Park, Fla.in the summer of 2011 and was a reluctant redshirt last season. The 6-2, 2-7-pounder saw his first action late in Iowa State's 33-7 win over Western Illinois on Sept. 15 but did not throw a pass. Between senior Steele Jantz and sophomore Jared Barnett, Iowa State had two quarterbacks that had won big games for head coach Paul Rhoads.
Speculation about Richardson's status had increased late in the season but Jantz started the Nov. 17 game at Kansas. On Iowa State's third possession Rhoads inserted Richardson. It was a fortuitous decision. The redshirt freshman completed 23-of-27 passes for 250 yards and four touchdowns as the Cyclones posted a 51-23 win to achieve bowl eligibility. The following week he threw a trio of TD passes against West Virginia. Two games, seven touchdowns, no interceptions.
The Richardson house was 25 minutes from Walt Disney World.
"There's not a lot of roller coasters, but the theme park is pretty awesome," Richardson said.
Richardson's aunt Dot, is one of the greatest softball players in the history of the sport and played on the U.S. team that won the Olympic gold medal at the 1996 Atlanta Games. He remembers going to the Magic Kingdom with his aunt.
"Since my aunt was in the Olympics, there were a lot of perks with that" Sam Richardson said. "So when I was younger I went quite a bit but not many times recently.
The son of an architect and a kindergarten teacher, his dad played baseball at Central Florida. Like elementary schoolers across the country, he played soccer and still appreciates the game.
"I don't follow specific teams but I like watching the (English) Premier League," Richardson said. "I like the World Cup and Olympic soccer."
Other than flag football, his first football experience was in Pop Warner Football playing in eighth grade.
"The first couple of games I didn't even play," Richardson said, laughing. "I played some games at receiver. Toward the end of the year I started playing quarterback. I honestly don't know why."
Richardson's early interests were in basketball.
"When football came around, it was like 'alright, it's football season,'" Richardson said. "I did summer workouts and the high school coaches told me I should go out for quarterback, so that is what I did freshman year."
Richardson started the last four games as a sophomore as Winter Park High School made the state playoffs. As a junior Winter Park was 11-2 and advanced to the third round of the playoffs under head coach Tim Shifflett.
"I loved our coaches," Richardson said. "Our quarterback coach started at Central Florida for four years. He was fun to be around, he's pretty young. Just being with the group of senior guys that we had, it was pretty awesome."
Richardson had top notch teammates, several of whom are now playing NCAA Division I college football.
It was about this time that Winter Park's coaches began to tell Richardson that college football could could be in his future.
"I always wanted to play a D-I sport, no matter what it was," Richardson said. "When I kept working with my quarterbacks coach, he kept telling me I could go D-I. The idea grew on me when I was a sophomore and junior.
One coach who noticed was Iowa State offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham.
"He showed me the kind of opportunities a place like Iowa State could hold for me," Richardson said. "I committed before my senior year."
Winter Park went 11-1 Richardson's senior season.
"When I went to Iowa State, I didn't know what would happen," Richardson said. "I had no plans to redshirt."
Soon after arriving at Iowa State, Cyclone coaches approached Richardson about redshirting. It was not what the freshman wanted to hear.
"I didn't like it, I didn't want to sit," Richardson said. "I think everybody wants to play. You can say all you want about getting an extra year of experience, just having to sit and watch is tough."
Now for the first time since playing Pop Warner football, this Floridian would sit.
"It was weird," Richardson said.
So Richardson played the part of the scout team quarterback.
"They give you a card with a play and you run the play," Richardson said.
Over time, the redshirts meshed as a team and took pride in challenging the No. 1 defense.
"We had the best scout team,"Richardson said. "We had (running back Devondrick) Nealy, (wide receiver Quenten) Bundrage, (wide receiver Tad) Ecby, (running back Rob) Standard and the guys on the offensive line."
Though he adjusted quickly, there was no question that the speed of the game was fast.
"When I first got here and we were doing summer stuff, I remember catching the snap and just kind of being shocked at how much faster it is," Richardson said. "It was a hand full but I got used to it."
So Richardson payed his dues.
"After the Kansas State game, I started to get more reps with the second team," Richardson said. "After that things didn't change much. When we had an open competition the week of the Baylor game I had more reps."
The week of the Kansas game, there were no moments during practice that portended an auspicious game in Lawrence, Kan.
Jantz led the Cyclones on a scoring drive and then just that fast, it happened.
"I was just on the headset and the coaches were talking to him," Richardson said. "(Steele) sounded a little banged up. They told me 'Sam, get warmed up, be ready.'" They came to me and said "Okay, your going in. If you do well, we'll keep you in there. Just do what you can do.'"
The rest is well-documented. Iowa State's win at Kansas was the Cyclones' largest margin of victory in a road win since 1923.
Now, Richardson will get his first taste of postseason college football. He will be ready.