Size: 5’11”, 205 pounds
Age: 19, sophomore
Stats – 13 games played, 13 games started, 61 tackles (third on team), 3 interceptions (second on team), 12 passes broken up (1st on team), 15 passes defended (1st on team), 1 forced fumble
Game broadcast: 1:30 p.m., Tuesday on ESPN
Jordan Richards and his teammates with the Pac-12 football champion Stanford Cardinal cap off an outstanding football season Tuesday in Pasadena, when they play Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl.
Richards, a 2011 graduate of Folsom High, is in his sophomore year at Stanford and has started all 13 games at safety for the 11-2 Cardinal and has certainly made his mark on the collegiate scene. How did he do it? The old fashioned way; through hard work.
“It really started at the end of last season,” Richards said. “The biggest time to improve is over the winter and through spring ball. I just worked my tail off to become more explosive and flexible. Having a full season under my belt and knowing the defense, the formations and where everyone is supposed to be, the game definitely slowed down for me this year and I’m more confident in my own ability and with the work I put in.”
Richards focused on his flexibility and range of motion in the offseason; in other words, he made himself a better athlete.
“One of the things I struggled with as a freshman was tackling and putting myself in the right position to make tackles, both structurally and physically,” Richards said. “I did some hard-core stretching, took some yoga classes and a lot of flexibility and range of motion exercises to get my body to bend better and have more power.”
Richards has had a great sophomore year, after starting three games as a freshman. The biggest adjustment Richards had to make last year was getting used to the speed of the game, not just of the running backs and receivers, but everything.
This year he’s started all 13 games for the Cardinal and is third on the team with 61 tackles and second in interceptions with three coming in wins against Duke, USC and the first game against UCLA.
“I’d say my first interception against Duke was the individual highlight for me so far,” Richards said. “Just to get that first one out of the way.”
Richards has quickly improved at Stanford, coming off a state championship Folsom High team in 2010. His dad, Terry, who’s coached football in Folsom for years, is proud of the way his son has achieved.
“As a family, we’re blessed and humbled by the opportunities Jordan has had; both at Folsom High and at Stanford,” Terry said. “We’re proud beyond words at how he’s handled it. He’s gone to work and taken care of his business. We’ve also told him that if you work hard, good things will happen. Maybe not on your time schedule, but they’ll happen and Jordan’s a living testament to that.”
Richards is a member of a tight-knit defensive unit that has played well most of the season. The Cardinal has allowed an opponent 20 points or more only four times and won three of those games.
“It’s been a crazy season,” Richards said. “We didn’t play as well as we wanted to in the championship game, but we kept digging deep and made our mark on the game. We gave up 48 points against Arizona, but got a big interception in overtime. We held USC and Oregon to 14 points. All season we’ve stepped up when called upon and we take pride in that.
“We have the nastiest front seven in the country and they’re fun to play behind. The entire team is close. No one thought much of us without Andrew (Luck), but we’ve rallied together and grinded out the wins.”
The Cardinal, the No. 6-ranked team in the country, featuring the third-ranked defense against the run, can put an exclamation point on their season with a win over Wisconsin Tuesday in the Rose Bowl. It’s their first trip to the Rose Bowl since 1999 and if they win it would be their first Rose Bowl win since 1971.
“Wisconsin is similar to use in that they want to keep the ball on the ground and pound it and we’ve got a tall task ahead,” Richards said. “They’ve got a lot of good running backs, including Montee Ball. We’re preparing for it like any other game and we’re going to do whatever we can to win the Rose Bowl.”
After the game, the team gets two weeks off before workouts start up in preparation for next season. For Richards that means a lot of hard work is in front of him.
“I’m going to watch a lot of film and see where I struggled, identify it and work on it to get it fixed,” he said.
After starting every game his sophomore year, Richards, if he continues to improve, might have a future professionally in a sport that he’s played since he was a young boy.
“I hope I get that opportunity; that’s what I’m working toward,” Richards said. “I’m definitely going to get my degree from here first and then hope for that opportunity to play on Sundays.”