BEREA: First, there were the damaged ankles that nearly kept Trent Richardson from prep football, doctors telling him he might not be able to run well enough to ever play again.
Then he became a father while still in high school.
But it was the thought of disappointing his mother, cancer survivor Trina Richardson, that really made the Browns’ top draft pick take a hard look at the life path he was on and finally decided he needed to change direction.
“A guy like me who almost gave up [but] fought back from injuries and having kids young, that’s big,” he said. “I was a child trying to raise a child. … It did really humble me, ground me and made me realize, ‘Hey, you gotta do something that can change your kids’ and your mom’s lives. You have to do well for your family.’?”
That’s why Richardson, a running back from Alabama, has been so emotional the past two days.
It started when the Browns traded with the Minnesota Vikings to move up a spot Thursday night to take him with the third overall pick. The free-flowing emotions continued Friday afternoon when Richardson and quarterback Brandon Weeden (chosen 22nd in the first round) met with the media.
“That feeling right then when I got that phone call was a big relief because I’ve been through some stuff and my family’s been through some stuff,” Richardson said. “[It meant] my two little girls won’t have to go through the struggles I’d been through growing up. They don’t have to see their dad or mom work two or three jobs like I did.”
Richardson was thankful to finally be able to put the chapter of his life’s struggles behind him.
“Just to let you know how I’m feeling, I haven’t been able to sleep,” he said. “I’m just so excited to be here.”
Cleveland is a long way away from Pensacola, Fla., where Richardson grew up in a single-parent home. During his early years at Escambia High School, he endured surgery in which screws were inserted in his ankles to help repair torn ligaments.
“My freshman and sophomore years, I didn’t play football,” Richardson said. “I had two screws in both my ankles and I didn’t know where life was going. I had my first child when I was a sophomore in high school.
“So it was either going to be I hang out with the wrong crowd — which I wasn’t raised that way — and try to get fast money or I could go make something out of myself, be a grown man and handle my responsibilities. I stood up to the plate and my little girls are happy now.”
As is his mother, who Richardson said would follow him to Cleveland to continue to look after the girls, now ages 5 and 3. When Richardson was in college in Tuscaloosa, Ala., Trina Richardson moved with her granddaughters to Birmingham, about 45 minutes away from her son, so that the young father could spend time with them every weekend.
“My mom’s a cancer patient, she fights that every day,” Richardson said. “My mom has done a lot as far as taking in kids that aren’t hers and getting custody of my cousins. She keeps us all together and she keeps our family strong. That’s a real mom for you. She was a mom and a dad to us and still is today. So when I got that phone call, I looked at my mom and said, ‘Mom, we’re gonna be in Ohio.’ ”
Richardson, who rushed for 1,679 yards and 21 touchdowns to lead Alabama to a national championship, was pretty sure he was going to the Browns following his pre-draft visit to Berea this month.
So when the news of the Browns trading up a spot made its way to Richardson in New York an hour before the 8 p.m. draft, he reassured his mother.
“When I told her about the trade, she said, ‘Are you sure we’re gonna be there [in Cleveland?]’ ” Richardson said. “She was making sure and didn’t want to get her hopes up too high … but before I left here, they said I was their guy. So, in my head, I was like, OK, they really want me.”
The transformation finally was complete.
Stephanie Storm can be reached at email@example.com. Read the Browns blog at https://ohio.com/browns. Follow her on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/SStormABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.