There Is An Oak In Palo Alto

Spring ball 2012 is beginning or has begun around the country. It is a time of the year when most college football players make the team and depth charts are set. Spring ball is the time where kids rise to the next level or fall off and head home.

They head home for a variety of reasons: grades, competition, homesickness, or character breakdowns that embarrass themselves, their families or the institution that is paying for their schooling. Junior colleges will fill their rosters with some head cases that just didn’t understand the opportunity they had in front of them.

Let me put a kid on your radar screen who will not be coming home, except to say, “Hello.” He is beginning Spring ball in his sophomore season at Stanford and his name is Jordan Richards. I get excited just writing about Jordan. He is one of the most humble kids I have ever met and plays the game with his hair on fire. Richards is the real deal in every sense of the term. He is a student/athlete who understands that academics comes first. He played as a true freshman at safety and will hit you hard enough to give the ball carrier snot bubbles. If I had to bet, Jordan will play on Sundays after he graduates from one of the nation’s top institutions.

Each Friday I text a handful of kids who play college football around the country, wishing them luck and to stay healthy. I am so proud that whatever road trip they are on, I will get a text back from each of them that says, “Thanks, Coach.” Jordan’s text is usually a little longer as he asks how “the boys” (that I am coaching) are doing. He really wants to know how they are. He has the heart of a Warrior-Poet. He is a man who has a heart for others. He was built for others. Jordan Richards will make a difference on the field, at home and in the community, and Jordan will make others around him better men. He is the product of two parents who instilled values that Jordan learned and follows. Pretty simple formula really – establish values, and build character traits around those values.

Jordan is a leader in every sense of the word. I have watched him speak to our Playmakers in many different settings with a humble confidence that makes me proud. He talks of sacrifice, about putting team above self, and his faith. His priorities are in order and the future is very bright for this young man. He has already played on the biggest college stage and never flinched as a freshman, covering some of the best in the country. Richards is even a better man than he is a football player. He was recruited by Jim Harbaugh, and when Harbaugh left for the 49ers, Jordan never wavered because he made a commiment to something bigger than an individual.

Jordan Richards will play on Sundays if he wants to and if it is in God’s plan. You see, Jordan will follow God’s plan for him. When he is playing on Sundays, he will still answer my texts, show up when you ask him to, I won’t have to go through his agent to reach him, and I won’t have to pay him a speaker’s fee. He just knows that he is blessed, he has a responsibility to pay-it-forward, and will give all that he has.

In a day where we need heroes who can be counted on, this is a guy that is worth watching. Keep your eye on Jordan Richards on the field and off. He is an uncommon man who I am proud to say, “I know him.”

…Coach Roz

Coach Roz Is the Executive Director of Playmakers Mentoring Foundation, which is based in Sacramento. To contact Coach Roz, you can email him here.

This article was first published on 02-28-2012.