COLUMBIA — It did not take Christ Presbyterian Academy coach Ingle Martin long to see that Thomas Richard had the talent to be a special football player.
By TEREZ A. PAYLOR
The Kansas City Star
Ironically enough, Martin’s first impression of Richard – who became Missouri’s sixth verbal commitment for the Class of 2014 on Sunday – came on the basketball court, not the football field.
“When you watch him as a freshman go down the middle of the lane and tomahawk dunk on people, you say ‘Oh (my),’” Martin said with a laugh.
So yes, the athleticism has long been there in Richard, who Martin remembers being a 6-foot-1, 165-pound freshman. But after skipping football his first year of high school, a foot injury he suffered while playing basketball also kept him off the gridiron as a sophomore.
But Martin, a former quarterback at Florida and Furman, still persuaded Richard to come out for the team as a junior, and he was rewarded with a monster season. Richard racked up 55 catches for 1,072 yards and 13 touchdowns and also played cornerback for a team that went 13-1 and reached the Tennessee Class 3A semifinals.
“Just a dominant player,” Martin said. “He’s starting to figure out that this is the sport that will pay for his college. He’s a heck of a basketball player, but he saw his ceiling in football is a little higher.”
Martin said Richard, who is listed as a three-star prospect by 247sports but has not received a star rating from Rivals.com, would have blown up had he played high school ball longer and chosen to go to offseason football camps.
“This will be his first year devoting himself to football,” Martin said. “He’s put on 15 pounds of good weight – he now weighs 185 pounds – and he jumped 37 inches at the Nike SPARQ combine. No one really knew about him until his film got out this year, and Coach (Pat) Washington kind of fell in love with him.”
Washington, who was hired as Missouri’s new receivers coach this offseason, is serving as Richard’s lead recruiter. He was also the receivers coach at Tennessee when Martin was a top prep quarterback in Nashville several years ago.
“This guy coached guys that have been successful in the NFL and college, so you’re going to be coached by one of the best,” Martin said of Washington.
Martin says Washington’s experience is just one reason he expects Richard – whose mother went to MU – to stick with his commitment.
“I think Thomas is very solid (to MU),” Martin said. “He’s loved Missouri since he’s been up there…he wants to maybe major in journalism, and they’ve got the best school, they throw it around, they want him and it’s in the SEC.”
Martin said Missouri is also in the mix for Richard’s teammate, three-star offensive tackle Paul Adams, who is listed at 6 feet 6, 245 pounds and also has offers from Cincinnati and Mississippi State.
“It sounds like they’re doing a great job with the kids around Nashville, based on what the kids are telling me,” Martin said of Missouri.
To reach Terez A. Paylor, send email to email@example.com or call 816-234-4489. Follow him at Twitter.com/TerezPaylor.