Behind The Scenes

Why Alabama’s Trent Richardson runs tough on and off the field

In the buildup to the Allstate BCS Championship Game Monday night (8:30 ET, ESPN, ESPN 3D, ESPN3, ESPN Radio 7:30 ET for pregame) in New Orleans, ESPN’s Features Unit has been busy producing plenty of profiles.

One feature focuses on Alabama running back Trent Richardson, whose relentless rushing has spurred the Crimson Tide into this rematch against top-ranked LSU. See a preview of the Richardson profile in the video above.

Like Pro Football Hall of Famer and former ESPN analyst Emmitt Smith, Richardson is the pride of Escambia High School in Pensacola, Fla.

In ESPN associate producer Todd Kapostasy‘s piece, reported by Tom Rinaldi, Richardson revealed his thoughts on fatherhood and showed that no one — even friends — is exempt from receiving a stiff-arm when necessary. Also, Smith gives his scouting report on Richardson’s rugged running.

Kapostasy, a Brown University grad in his fifth year at ESPN, gives Front Row an inside look at the making of the feature.

FR: How did you come up with the theme of “toughness” for this piece?
Richardson’s rugged running style is something that has been discussed at length this season. His early life and struggles, however, are more of a mystery to college football fans. After Rinaldi’s interview with Richardson, it became clear that there was a connection to be made between the adversity he has overcome in his life, the responsibilities he has as a father, and the toughness he displays on the field. This wasn’t necessarily a connection that Richardson made himself, but was a theme that became obvious to Tom and I when listening to Richardson’s story.

FR: How open was Richardson to being profiled?
He was surprisingly open about his daughters and his early life in Pensacola. At one point, he mentioned that when he travels back home to Pensacola and drives around familiar sites in his hometown he gets very reflective. I think he’s at the point in his college career — and in his life — where he knows he’s about to see all of the hard work and sacrifice pay off. He constantly referenced “providing for his family” and probably realizes that dream is within close reach.

FR: Of all of the Richardson highlights that you have to pick from, what’s your favorite and why?
It’s somewhat of an obvious answer, but his run against Ole Miss is my personal favorite. He had so many punishing runs this season, but that one showed off his speed, creativity, and finesse as a runner. Essentially, he broke off a huge run up the sideline, and then faked like he was going to cut back across the field and run over a defense back who was preparing for impact. Instead, he put a little juke on him and continued up the sideline for the score. Oh, and the DB literally fell down.

FR: What’s the story behind the footage in the front-yard football game, and who caught the brunt of that stiff-arm?
Trent explained that the front yard “football” games — it’s really just a wrestling match but one guy happens to be holding a football — are a tradition in the Richardson family. When he was younger, his cousins would beat up on him in the yard. Now Richardson is the one inflicting the pain on other members of his family. We’re not positive who caught the stiff-arm, but we think it’s one of his cousins.

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