LOUISIANA – Zach Richardson expected to play sports at the college level — but a challenging run for the Louisiana Bulldogs during this time as a quarterback for the team led him to discount football as a possibility.
Four short seasons later, Richardson wrapped up a successful stint at Truman State with an appearance in a college bowl game: the inaugural America Crossroads Bowl in Hobart, Ind. It turned out to be an triumphant end to his unexpected return to the football field.
Richardson remembered talking with Truman’s coach before his freshman year at Truman, while he was on his way to a Louisiana basketball game.
He wanted to play sports in college — but his tough run with Louisiana pushed him to play baseball instead. Richardson had been a three-sport athlete at Louisiana High School. He earned conference player of the year honors in basketball and baseball and all-district for football his senior year.
“I got beaten up a lot, so I was thinking ‘I don’t want to play football at a collegiate level,” Richardson said.
It wasn’t till November of his freshman year, after deciding he wouldn’t be a “good fit” on the baseball team, that he reached back out to Truman’s football coach.
“I said, ‘I’ll do anything I need to do to make the team,” Richardson said.
Truman’s quarterback position had been filled, so Richardson moved into a wide receiver position.
The move to the college level meant new challenges.
“Once I got up to Kirksville and started working out at that level, it was a really huge jump from the way I’d been doing things. I pushed myself to be the best I could be, and after that it was not in my control. It was [up to] the coaches to make the decision about whether you’ll play or not,” Richardson said.
But the experience had its rewards.
“Being a part of the team — that brotherhood. There are around 100 guys on the team, and you don’t have a lot of cliques,” Richardson said. “They accept everybody into the family.
Despite the challenges Louisiana faced on the football field during his time at the school — he said the team had only two wins during his four years — Richardson said he valued the continuing relationships he built with Louisiana’s coaching staff, including Greg Purdum and Tommy Fallert, and the lessons he took from the experience.
“Its tough to win football games. Its going to take more than just showing up to practice. Its going to take some time off the field. And its still not going to be easy, even after you do all that work,” Richardson said.
The 2019 season stood out for Richardson as he looked back on his college football career: Truman’s first ten-win season in school history, leading up to December’s bowl game against Ohio Dominican.
The team’s homecoming game against Missouri S&T stood out for Richardson. Truman won the game in the last seconds, prompting jubilation from the team and the home crowd.
“Hearing that noise and the excitement — everybody was happy for one another. It didn’t matter who scored the game-winning point. Everybody was just happy we won,” Richardson said.
In the bowl game Truman State, representing the Great Lakes Valley Conference beat Dominican Ohio, representing the Great Midwest Athletic Conference, 21-7.
“Sports has consumed my life, and football has been a part of my life for 13 years. That Saturday, knowing that that would be my last time suiting up in a football uniform, putting the pads and helmet back on again — it just made me reflect on how blessed I’ve been,” Richardson said.
Richardson plans to move to Houston, Texas and pursue a career in sports journalism or sports broadcasting after graduation.
“I think [the experience] has prepared me for things outside of sports in life. Things won’t always go your way. [You’ve got to] seize the moment, and be ready for whatever life throws at you,” Richardson said.