BEREA: Trent Richardson has never hesitated to discuss his rough background since the Browns drafted him third overall April 26.
Drugs, violence and poverty, Richardson said, permeate the Warrington neighborhood of Pensacola, Fla., where he grew up. He had two daughters when he was a teenager, life was hard and the wrong crowd presented itself at virtually every turn. Richardson, though, credits his mother, Katrina, and the coaches he had as a youngster for helping him emerge from difficult circumstances to become a star running back at the University of Alabama and a first-round draft pick.
This week, Richardson and the other 252 members of this year’s draft class received reminders about how to stay on the right path during the 15th NFL Rookie Symposium, which is being held in Northeast Ohio for the first time. The AFC rookies will wrap up the symposium today with a visit to the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, and Richardson expects to receive a valuable history lesson.
“I want to be in the hall of fame, and I want to be one of the most talked-about running backs in the NFL,” Richardson said Friday during the symposium’s PLAY 60 Youth Football Clinic at the Browns’ headquarters. “I want my name to always be remembered in a good way, not in a dumb way or in a crazy way. For me, I’m always gonna work hard and make sure that my standards are set high.”
Cincinnati Bengals cornerback Adam “Pacman” Jones and former NFL wide receiver Terrell Owens, both of whom have encountered their fair share of off-the-field drama, spoke to the AFC rookies Thursday during orientation at the Bertram Inn & Conference Center in Aurora.
“To me, [the most important lesson] was what Adam Jones said — ‘Make sure you look at that bank statement, make sure you do background checks on your financial adviser, your agent, your broker, all that stuff,’ ” Richardson said. “I had never thought about that stuff. That’s something I’m going to go back and double check on.
“I have kept my circle small. I have friends back home, but they know their spot. They know their place, and when I get with them, I get with them and I talk to them. But they know when I’m working it is straight business. I’m not going to let anyone interfere with my business.”
Like Richardson, fellow Browns rookie Mitchell Schwartz heard the warnings loud and clear during the symposium.
“Don’t make the same mistakes other people have made already,” said Schwartz, an offensive tackle from the University of California whom the Browns picked 37th overall. “They bring a lot of guys in who have kind of already done the wrong things that you shouldn’t be doing. You just try to learn from their mistakes, so you don’t do it yourself. I think that’s kind of the big takeaway. It’s all stuff you know — not to drink and drive. Other players who have been through it can tell you the situation you can get caught up in and how easily things can turn for you.”
Much of the advice sounds familiar to Browns quarterback Brandon Weeden, who’s different than a typical rookie because he spent five years in minor-league baseball before playing football at Oklahoma State University and will turn 29 in October. Still, Weeden knows one particular message is worth hearing again.
“T.O. said it — everybody really said it — but you’ve got a lot of free time on your hands, and there’s a lot of people out there that want to open up their hand and have you help them by loaning them money or whatever it may be,” said Weeden, the 22nd overall pick. “I don’t care what anyone says. If you’re financially stable, it makes things a lot easier, and 78 percent of the people that leave the league after three or four years aren’t. To me, that hits home. I like my money. I want to keep my money. I think hearing guys that have been through the actual situation, to hear it come out of their mouth, that hits home a little bit.”
Of course, lessons from the symposium only pay off if they’re applied. Each player must make his own decisions, and Richardson believes his foundation will help him remain disciplined.
“My mom kept me humble with church and my faith,” Richardson said. “Football can mold you into a man and mold you into a different person and a respectful person when you have coaches like I had.
“I’m gonna always be that guy that didn’t have that much, and I’m gonna always work hard. I’ll make sure I remember where I came from.”
Nate Ulrich can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the Browns blog at http://www.ohio.com/browns. Follow him on Twitter at www.twitter.com/NateUlrichABJ and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/browns.abj.