Saturday marks a homecoming of sorts for Auburn’s Ashton Richardson.
The walk-on linebacker moved to Baton Rouge, La. during high school when Hurricane Katrina displaced his family from New Orleans. The Richardson family moved in with his grandmother and subsequently moved to Tallahassee, Fla.
Richardson, and his father, Al Richardson, stayed behind for the younger Richardson to finish his high school career.
Moving to Baton Rouge was a homecoming for Al Richardson as well. The elder Richardson was an LSU great, earning all-America honors as a senior in 1982. He is the current record holder at LSU for career tackles (452) and single-game tackles (21).
Despite his football background, Al Richardson tried to persuade his son to pursue other options as a child.
“It's actually kind of funny because growing up he didn't want me to play football,” Ashton Richardson said. “He always influenced me to play other sports like baseball and basketball just because he was afraid of me being hurt.
“Once I got to high school and I showed that I wanted to play, he finally let me go out and play. He did his best to let me figure out the game on my own but at times where he felt like he'd help, he'd give me little pointers here and there. He was never just on me telling me I had to do this thing or that thing, he just kind of gave me help where he saw I needed it.”
Ashton Richardson said his father didn’t push him to attend LSU either.
Instead, the younger Richardson spent the end of his high school career looking for schools that would accept him as a walk-on.
“I actually called them ahead of time during the time I was figuring out the school I wanted to go to,” Ashton Richardson said. “I just called a bunch of different schools and it's funny because Auburn was the last school I called. I felt like they were going to give me a shot so I called them and when they gave me a good response, I decided to come and started as a student. Once I sat out a semester, I just went out and walked on.”
Richardson has only played minimally at linebacker.
However, he has factored prominently in special teams.
Auburn coach Gene Chizik said players like Richardson have been crucial this season.
“He is one of six or seven guys on this team that have walked on and really helped this football team,” Chizik said. “He is a walk-on that has never asked for anything. He is out there working hard every day. He loves Auburn and going to school here. So when you have guys like Ashton step up to the plate and help you win, it is not only special for the football team but also for them. Ashton has been a huge help, but again there are six or seven guys just like him that have provided help for us, especially on special teams.”
STAYING RED: Of Auburn’s 21-man 2009 signing class that eventually enrolled in school, 15 have played this season.
The other six – QBs Tyrik Rollison and Clint Moseley, RB Dontae Aycock, OL Andre Harris, TE Robert Cooper and DL Nosa Eguae – will likely sit out the remainder of the season.
That’s Chizik’s goal anyway – as long as he can afford to keep them off the field.
“If you had a perfect world, you would go ahead and continue to redshirt them through the rest of the year,” Chizik said. “It's really hard for me to say exactly what we would do in an isolated incident. But this late in the year, if people are redshirted , typically that's what you would like to do is continue to ride the year out. But again, depending on what happens with your football team, you have to do what's best for the team.”