Last year, Winona’s Anthony Richardson was in the learning stage.
With five seniors on the offensive line, Richardson was the first guy off the bench, rotating in on the line as the Tigers went through the regular season undefeated before losing in the third round of the Class 3A playoffs.
But now the tables are turned and Richardson is the lone player with experience on the offensive line. Richardson, a 5-foot-10, 270-pound guard, is the sixth area player to be featured in The Winona Times/Carroll Conservative Eleven Players To Watch for the upcoming football season. Already announced are An’Darius Coffey and Blake Cooper of Winona, Thomas Costilow and Hayden Self of Winona Christian, and Cory Clay and Deriaun Townsend of J.Z. George.
After playing part time and starting in less than half the games, it’s now time for Richardson to carry the load for the offensive line.
“I had a really good season last year,” Richardson said. “The older guys showed me what it was like to play and how to be a leader on the line. I think I gained a lot off of playing with those guys last year. Losing in the third round of the playoffs was rough but we plan on coming back stronger this year.”
When speaking of Richardson, Tompkins had nothing but good things to say about the rising senior.
“He is a guy that you love to have on your team, he’s a great kid,” Tompkins said. “He is very mild mannered. I’m going to say he has never been in trouble. He is not going to say a whole lot. When he gets his equipment on, he is ready to go. He is tough when he puts his hands on the ground. He is a kid that you love having on your team. He is going to be where he is supposed to be at, when he is supposed to be there. We are going to be looking for him to lead a whole lot on that offensive line, that’s for sure.”
With the majority of his experience gone on the offensive line, Tompkins knows that Richardson will have to lead the way for senior quarterback An’Darius Coffey, who recently committed to play at Ole Miss. Richardson will start at right guard for the Tigers but is also the backup center as well.
“He had five or six starts last year and played in every game,” Tompkins said. “We had five or six or them that we rotated in every game last year and he was one of those guys. But he is a guy that is going to do whatever you ask him to do. He is our backup center as well and is going to play our guard. He is very versatile. Just looking at him, you probably wouldn’t think that but he can do what we need him to do.”
Tompkins said Richardson is also one of the leaders in the weight room as well. He squats more than 500 pounds and benches 250-plus pounds as well.
“He’s a really strong kid,” Tompkins said. “He’s a kid who has worked his rear end off in the weight room but also gets it done in the classroom. He is going to do every rep and he’s not going to miss lifting. And he’s the kind of guy that’s going to make sure his buddies do all their reps as well. I’m glad he’s on my team.”
Richardson knows what his role is going to have to be for the Tigers this season.
“I’m the only starter returning on the line,” Richardson said. “They are looking for me to be a leader on the line. I’ve got to lead those young guys and show them how we do things, the same way those older guys showed me last year. I have to play my role and then just play the best that I can. We are going to have to learn fast and play without fear. We are going to have to give it 100 percent.”
On the field, Tompkins said he expects to run a lot behind Richardson.