If this NFL thing doesn’t work out for Derrick Richardson, at least he’s
making some friends in high places.
The rookie free agent safety with the Pittsburgh Steelers is just a few
credits short of graduation with a degree in accounting from New Mexico State.
Given who he’s hanging out with now and how much money they make, even if
Richardson doesn’t make the Steelers’ final roster, he could at the very
least meet some potential clients.
The 5-11, 190-pound Richardson, however, has bigger plans.
“I’m all in here, but if that doesn’t happen, I was ready to take a couple
of more classes to get my 150 credits and sit for the CPA course in New Mexico or Arizona and be a CPA,” Richardson said. “I’d probably do
Yes, Richardson has an analytical mind. In fact, the three-year starter at
New Mexico State was an engineering major before the birth of his daughter
forced him to switch to something a little less demanding.
“You can ask anybody. I’m a pretty smart dude,” Richardson said with some
modesty. “I read a lot. I do a lot of studying. I watch a lot of film. I
always work on my craft. I’m just a worker.”
That attitude is what helped sell the Steelers on him when they were
looking at undrafted free agents. It also didn’t hurt that Richardson as a
tackling machine for the Aggies.
Richardson recorded 318 tackles in three seasons, good for 10th in school
history. He led the nation in tackles per game as a senior, averaging
12.5, while finishing with 137.
“I pride myself in being a good tackler,” Richardson said. “I tell myself
that I shouldn’t miss at all. Whatever play that comes to me, I’m not
going to miss it.”
It also didn’t hurt that the Aggies played a 3-4 defense before shifting
to a 3-3-5 in 2008.
“The 3-3-5 that we ran last year is a lot different that what we’re
running out here,” Richardson said of the Steelers’ base defense. “There’s
not a lot I can take from that. But I ran the 3-4 a lot, so I’m used to
The Steelers used Richardson at both free and strong safety during spring
workouts and he and the other young safeties on the team’s roster saw
plenty of practice time as starting free safety Ryan Clark sat out after
having shoulder surgery, while strong safety Troy Polamalu went through
his own offseason training program.
Richardson leaned on second-year safety Ryan Mundy – who also played in a
3-3-5 defense at West Virginia – to help him out when needed.
“He’s a smart guy, he knows the defense in and out. They call him
Wonderlic, so he’s a good guy to ask questions,” Richardson said. “I just
go to him and ask him where I should be and what I should do. He gives me
the right answer and has been a lot of help.”
The fact that the Steelers weren’t deep at safety behind Clark and
Polamalu was one of the selling points that helped make his decision to
sign with the team. Despite having offers from six other teams in the
hours following the draft, when scout Kelvin Fisher called, Richardson
said the decision to sign with Pittsburgh was an easy one.
“I told (the other teams) them nope, I’m already signed, I’m going with
the Super Bowl champs,” Richardson said. “It wasn’t that only. They didn’t
have many safeties. All the other teams had five or six on their depth
chart. There were only four or five here and (the Steelers) said they
weren’t bringing in any more safeties. I really went for it. Then, to come
to the Mecca of defense and NFL football, I was ready to come and play for
It also didn’t hurt matters that so many undrafted free agents have not
only earned roster spots with the Steelers, but are now starters.
“That was definitely a selling point. When the scout (Kelvin Fisher)
called me, he told me that (head coach Mike) Tomlin doesn’t care where you
were drafted or if you were drafted. If you can play football, you can
play football. That’s all you want, a decent chance, especially in this
Dale Lolley appears courtesy of the Observer-Reporter