Trent Richardson never played a snap inside Legion Field before Sunday afternoon, but he had experienced joy there.
Prior to the rebirth of his football career with The Alliance of American Football’s Birmingham Iron, Richardson was just a football dad in the stands, watching his son Trent Richardson Jr. playing youth football at Legion just a few months ago.
T.J. scored the first touchdown of his young career that day, a moment dad will always cherish. So when the elder Richardson crossed the goal line for the first touchdown in Iron history on Sunday, his mind immediately flashed to his son and the rest of his family. It is T.J. who has helped motivate Richardson on his path toward regaining his football career.
“Every time I go training, he go train with me,” Richardson said, beaming from ear to ear. “If he do an extra rep, I have to go do an extra rep, too. (Former Alabama receiver) Mike McCoy, my trainer, will tell you, ‘My hardest worker in this gym is the 6-year-old.’ And that’s T.J.”
Richardson ran for 58 yards and two touchdowns in the Iron’s 26-0 shutout win over the Memphis Express in the Alliance opener for both teams Sunday afternoon.
It was a reintroduction of sorts for Richardson. He gained national stardom at Alabama, becoming a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2011. The Cleveland Browns selected Richardson third overall in 2012 NFL Draft after he opted to forgo his senior season.
Richardson had a successful rookie season, but was traded early in Year 2. Things were never the same as Richardson spent time with three teams over the next three years and was out of the league in 2016.
Now, Richardson is playing carefree as he has rediscovered his love for the game with the Iron.
“It’s not even for the world, it’s for myself,” Richardson said of his performance on Sunday. “I never got a chance to actually play for myself and play for my kids. I’ve always had a lot of stuff on my shoulders and a lot I was running for. Now I’m back to a place where it’s just fun. It’s fun, man. I can play for myself, my small family, my fiancee and that’s it. That’s all I need.”
While the Express contained Richardson for three quarters, he eventually wore down their defense, punishing them with run after run in the fourth quarter, finishing the game with 23 carries.
“If you’re going to turn around and give him the ball 20 or 30 times a game, he’s going to be effective,” Express coach Mike Singletary said. “We didn’t do a good job of taking him out of the game.”
Iron safety Max Redfield witnesses Richardson’s “relentless” running style every day in practice.
“He’s obviously hard to tackle because it takes two or three dudes every single time,” Redfield said. “He falls forward every single time. The way he was running in the first quarter and the fourth quarter were the same. He might have even gotten stronger. You love to see that.”
Not everything went perfectly for Richardson. He had a third-quarter fumble that almost led to points for the Express, but the Iron’s defense clamped down on a fourth-and-1 attempt from the 6-yard line to thwart the drive. Richardson used the turnover as fuel.
“Trent’s an unbelievable person and player,” Iron quarterback Luis Perez said. “He works very hard. He’s very hard on himself. After that fumble, he gathered us and said, ‘Guys that’s on me. I’m going to come back, and I’m going to win us this game. I’m going to run the ball down their throats, and we’re going to get this win.’ He did that.”
The Iron will continue to lean on Richardson as the season continues. Run lanes will get bigger as the offensive line continues to gel. If he’s healthy, Richardson has an opportunity to put together a strong season and garner the attention of NFL personnel.
For now, though, he’s focused on the building up the Iron.
“We’re going to do what we can to keep this league going, and keep Birmingham (Legion Field) packed,” Richardson said. “We’re trying to be in Vegas (for the Alliance championship) in April.”