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Meet the Rookies: DL Darryl Richard

Darryl Richard is never bored.

In high school, for instance, he was class valedictorian, student body president and a blue-chip football prospect. At Georgia Tech, he was equally active in campus life. He was known to lead town hall meetings for student-athletes in his role as president of the school's Student-Athlete Advisory Board.

And when Georgia Tech's then-President, Wayne Clough, announced last year that he was leaving to head the Smithsonian Institution, Richard was one of 20 people chosen to be on the search committee for his replacement.

Keep in mind, Richard, who started for the Yellow Jackets since his freshman year, took part in all these extracurricular activities while earning not just his undergraduate degree, but an MBA as well, from Georgia Tech. All in just four-and-a-half years.

"I think that just helped build Darryl Richard into who he is today," Richard observed, speaking about himself in the third person. "The thing about me, when I get done with something, it's in the past. I pretty much close that chapter and move onto the next thing. And that's where I'm at right now. Trying to do what I can to win a job with this football team."

Richard, a Louisiana native, has known his former position coach at Georgia Tech, Giff Smith, since the ninth grade. Smith was, at the time, on the Tulane staff.

"Darryl's always been mature," he remarked during a short break between recruiting trips. "He can handle tough situations on his own. And he'll always take a negative and make it a positive."

Case in point: after a promising freshman campaign, Richard blew out a knee on the final day of spring practice, causing him to miss his entire sophomore season.

"Instead of pouting, he took 21 hours of coursework, which he had to get special permission to do," Smith explained. "He got all As, maybe one B, if I recall. Finished with his MBA this past December."

"I think you have to have a positive attitude," Richard continued. "A lot of times, people talk about character, whether somebody's a nice guy. But I don't believe character is just about being a nice guy. Character is how you handle adversity, how you go about your business. And I want to be someone of strong character. So, when I get into a situation like that, I have to make the best of it."

His bookworm exterior belies a warm, social personality, which Smith said helps Richard adapt to any situation. He should have little trouble making friends here in New England, especially since he already knows at least one Patriot very well. Former Yellow Jackets linebacker Gary Guyton roomed with Richard in college, and the latter said he hopes to lean on the former for career advice.

"Oh, definitely. No question. Not just Gary but when I get a chance to meet some of the other vets, hopefully, those guys will be willing to show me the ropes and what it takes to be a professional player. That's one thing I don't have that they do. They know what it's about to be a professional football player."

At the moment, Richard is also unfamiliar with the particulars of New England's 3-4 defensive scheme. But as usual, he's trying to learn it the best way he knows how – by immersing himself in his playbook.

"I just like to know what I'm doing, no matter what. So, if I'm going to do something, I want to have an idea of what it's about. And since I want to have a career playing football, I want to learn as much as possible about the business.

"When you make the transition from one level to the next," he added, "it's about adjusting to the speed of the game, then, the knowledge that comes with the playbook. This is a different system. I didn't run the 3-4 defense in college. We were a 4-3 blitzing style team. So, I have to learn to play five-technique. If I can get there, hopefully, it will give me a chance to win a job."

Smith believes Richard has the talent – certainly the brains – to learn a new system and perhaps more than one position.

"He can definitely eat blocks, hold the point, and he got better as a pass rusher, but that wasn't his forte. He can play either end or nose in your system. He's big enough to be a nose, but athletic enough to play the end position on your running downs.

"The biggest thing he'll have to work on most is being able to convert to the pass rush quicker."

The odds of Richard making the team, let alone having an impact, may be long. But Richard has exceeded expectations before.

"He was a fat freshman – and he'll tell admit it, he was fat – and couldn't jog around our field," Smith recalled. "Our strength coach said he wouldn't amount to anything, and he ended playing and even starting as a freshman. He's always proving people wrong."
At the moment, it's unclear exactly what job he'll be competing for (end or tackle), as roster spots on the Pats defensive line are few and far between.

"Hopefully," he remarked, "I'm someone who can show some versatility and set myself up to get placed wherever they need me on the defensive line. So, I'm trying to learn all the positions."

What else would you expect from a guy who enjoys leading such a busy life.

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