Richardson gets NFL chance with Packers

Published 6:59 pm Friday, May 11, 2012

Sean Richardson left Linden Thursday headed for Green Bay. The Linden High alumnus and former Vanderbilt strong safety was intent on turning his non-drafted free agent status into a full-fledged NFL roster spot.

“I’m ready to get out there and get to work,” Richardson said.

For Richardson, the arrival of the rookie mini-camps meant a return to football, a return to normalcy. Since Vanderbilt closed out its season with a bowl game loss, Richardson has continually put his skills on display in non-football activities, hoping to pique the interest of a team enough to land a coveted NFL contract.

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From his work at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, Ind. to his pro day in Nashville, the last several months have been full of uncertainty as Richardson went through the arduous process that would ultimately create his NFL opportunity.

“I knew with the combine and pro day, I was going in with confidence and was excited. That was the best I’d felt since the ankle injury. I felt pretty good that I’d be on someone’s team before it is all said and done,” Richardson recalled.

But as the NFL Draft drew near, Richardson found himself with more questions than answers. He had heard so many different projections from so many different sources that his NFL future was as murky as ever.

“Just like any player, you hope to get drafted. Scouts and (general managers) and such were talking about third to fifth round, fourth to sixth round, mid-round pick, possibility of being a late round pick. I was a little discouraged,” Richardson admitted. “Before the draft started, a lot of teams told me they were interested in me. A few teams called me during draft day and told me they were about to draft me. I got discouraged about that because a few teams called me and told me they were about to take me with their next pick and it didn’t really happen.”

Pick after pick went by in the seven-round, three-day draft and Richardson’s name was never called. Richardson’s greatest encouragement came from the word’s of a former NFL player who advised him that it is often better to go undrafted than to be taken in the late rounds as the undrafted free agent has greater flexibility and the opportunity to choose the situation that best suits him.

“I embraced it, and thanked God for having the opportunity that I have,” Richardson said.

Once the draft ended, Richardson’s opportunities came. They came from the Miami Dolphins. The Tampa Bay Buccaneers extended an offer. The Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings wanted his services. As did the San Francisco 49ers. Before the day was out, 14 NFL teams had offered Richardson a free agent contract.

“”It’s great to have a lot of different offers even after the draft. It still gives you hope. To be in that position of being one of the top undrafted players, it relieves the stress a little. It was a lot of teams. I just directed them to my agent. We talked about it, me and my parents and my agents,” Richardson said. “We weighed out all the options about what was the best possibility where I could play right away and have a good chance of making the team. It came down to the Arizona Cardinals and the Green Bay Packers and I chose Green Bay.”

The decision proved a rather easy one for Richardson, who took into account the stability of the franchise as well as the opportunity available to him to make the roster before opting to take his talents to the legendary Lambeau Field.

“Green Bay is one of the great historical teams and it is just an honor to be able to represent them. The success that they have had recently is also a big plus. I’m excited and I can’t wait to get up there and get to work,” Richardson said before departing for Wisconsin. “I talked to a few of the coaches and they said with my versatility I can play linebacker and safety. When I get there, they are going to have me learning both positions. They said I can play outside and safety, and even nickel in nickel defense and special teams.”

Richardson will have about 45 days to make his initial impression with a series of camps before really getting into the meat of the preseason workouts.

While he finally received the opportunity for which he had long been waiting, Richardson is far from comfortable with his circumstances. He pointed to his NFL contract and his SEC scholarship as nice accomplishments he hopes will be but a footnote to a lengthy career.

“It’s a blessing to be in that position, to be able to play in the NFL and to be able to play in the SEC, it’s a great accomplishment,” Richardson said. “But, my goal is to play in the NFL for a long time. I’ve still got a lot of work to do.”

Just days after receiving his first NFL contract, Richardson also picked up another accolade, one that surprised him more than any to date when his hometown presented him with the key to the city.

“It was a shock. I was surprised when they told me that I had the key to the city. It was just overwhelming. I was so thankful to Linden and it was just a great honor. I’m looking forward to representing Linden and Marengo County in the best way possible. And shout out to Mitzi Gates. She was my old teacher and now the mayor of Linden. I want to thank her,” Richardson said. “I have plenty of support from my family and friends here in Marengo County and I want to thank everybody for supporting me.”