TUSCALOOSA — Trent Richardson worked his legs and lungs last week running up the sandy bluffs on the west shore of Escambia Bay.
Locals around his hometown of Pensacola, Fla., know pressing up those hills can make muscles out of mush.
That includes former high school coach Derrick Boyd, the guy Richardson sometimes calls “Dad” or “Pops,” sometimes as a joke and usually out of respect.
Boyd was an Escambia High assistant when Richardson ran for 407 yards in a 2007 game against Tate High, which helped launch him on the national recruiting map. Boyd was helping Richardson sift through the letters in 2008 when the senior broke loose for 419 yards and six touchdowns against Milton.
Boyd still speaks of Richardson to the rotating crops of Escambia athletes, but not simply because of his ability to bust loose for touchdowns.
“We use Trent as an example for life,” Boyd said. “We don’t talk about the football. We talk about the kid able to overcome obstacles. He’s a warrior. He endures what comes his way.”
Alabama coach Nick Saban said Monday he’s looking for leaders this spring. Since Richardson came to UA, he has been groomed by former players such as Roy Upchurch and 2009 Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram to fill that role.
Ingram’s departure in January for the NFL turned the spotlight on Richardson, who recognizes the opportunity.
“Right now, I see myself as one of the main running backs,” Richardson said. “Mark’s not here, so I have to take a bigger role. I have a lot of big footsteps to fill.”
Back home, locals began comparing Richardson to NFL Hall of Fame running back Emmitt Smith, an Escambia alumnus, once Richardson became the first freshman since Smith to start at the high school.
Then he was measured against Ingram at Alabama. Two days into spring practice, Richardson wants to be sure he is leading the drills the right way.
“He’s not leading the group out every time with me just following behind him,” Richardson said. “Now I have to know what I’m doing to make sure I’m doing everything right.”
Ingram and Richardson developed an unselfish relationship and were happy to share carries and glory en route to the 2009 national championship. Likewise, Richardson has embraced true freshman Dee Hart and views him as he once saw himself.
They spend time together and recently attended a Crimson Tide basketball game. At practice, Hart is wearing jersey No. 1, as Richardson did in high school.
Richardson said to wear No. 1, Hart will have to back it up, and he feels it’s his responsibility to be sure his new teammate is prepared when the opportunity arises.
“He’s the youngest dude in the group right now,”%2