Not many players can boast the type of recruiting attention that Demario Richard
received as a three year member of the varsity football team at Palmdale High School, where former ASU wide receiver Derek Hagan
once also starred. Rated as a four-star prospect and the fifth-best running back in the West region by Scout.com, Richard rushed for 4,251 yards and 63 touchdowns in his high school career to go along with 563 receiving yards and five receiving touchdowns.
In all, Richard collected 24 scholarship offers from coast-to-coast before narrowing his choices down last fall.
“Didn’t nobody know that I was a silent commitment to Washington
for a minute, but then I found out that Coach (Sarkisian) was leaving for SC, so I didn’t want to stay there,” said Richard after practice on Wednesday. “I didn’t want to stay in California either, so I de-committed and my family was like you might as well commit to ASU because they’ve been here since day one.”
After reconsidering his pledge to the Huskies, Richard visited Utah
, West Virginia
, and Arizona State
before eventually committing to the Sun Devils last December.
“My family was more comfortable with the coaching staff than anybody else. And, I balled out at the camp they had in California,” he said. “After that happened I was just like, ‘I might as well commit here.’ West Virginia was too far from home. Utah was cool, but it wasn’t my type of weather.
“Now, I’m only five hours away from home and I’m comfortable here.”
Richard made it official in February when he faxed in his letter of commitment, joining fellow freshman Kalen Ballage
and junior college transfer De’Chavon Hayes as the team’s newest running back threats.
But that’s when things began to get a little rocky for Richard.
Following his high school graduation, the NCAA ruled that one of Richard’s classes did not fulfill the core requirement for NCAA qualification, forcing him to re-take the class over the summer before being cleared to join the rest of his Sun Devil teammates in Tempe.
“The summer was sickening for me,” Richard recalled. “Two days before I was supposed to leave we got a call from the NCAA saying something happened with one of my classes. I mean, I passed the class easy, but they said it was like an in-school summer school class or something like that and the NCAA said it was a no-go.
“When I heard about that, I just went into shutdown mode. I didn’t want to talk to nobody. I didn’t want to see nobody. I literally sat at home for two weeks and didn’t do anything but eat and sit in a room.”
After overcoming his initial disappointment and considering his options, Richard enrolled in summer school at Palmdale and resumed his regular routine of workouts, which consisted of crossfit, running hills and weight workouts with a trainer, in an effort to keep his hopes alive of qualifying in time for Fall Camp.
“After awhile I got tired of sitting at home so I started training, training, training because I knew that day was going to come,” he said. “They just kept sending me through loops but I was just like, ‘If this is really what it’s going to take to get me there, then I’m just going to have to go through it.’ I had to go to summer school at high school, then had to come back.”
Richard completed and passed the required course but still found himself waiting for an official clearance from the NCAA even after arriving on campus at ASU with his family last week. Thankfully, just four hours before the start of camp, Richard received word that he had been cleared and was able to join his teammates for the start of camp last Friday.
“It was taking forever and ever,” added Richard. “They almost didn’t clear me again when I got here Thursday, the day before camp. I was just sitting there like I came out here for nothing. My parents said, ‘If they don’t clear you by Friday, then we’re just going to go back home.’
“It’s a lot of weight off my shoulders but it’s still on my shoulders because now that I’m here, I still have to put in a lot of work. I felt like I was behind but Coach Norvell and Coach Long just told me, ‘Learn this playbook while you’re here and you’ll be good,’ so that’s what I’m doing.”
At 5-10 and 203 pounds, Richard, who reportedly runs a 4.5 40 time, looks the part of a prototypical running back, with a low center of gravity and powerful tree trunks for legs. However, Head Coach Todd Graham has said that he expects to use the speedy back in the slot this upcoming season to take advantage of his pass catching talents and ability to spread the field.
In just less than a week, Richard has elevated himself to the second team offense at one of the wide receiver positions and even found himself taking reps with the starters on Wednesday in team drills.
While the road from Palmdale to Tempe had a few more obstacles to overcome than originally anticipated, Richard appears ready for whatever challenge comes next and looks forward to showing Sun Devil fans what he can on the field in 2014.
“I’m picking up a lot of stuff from my teammates and the coaches,” he said. “Kyle Middlebrooks
and Deantre Lewis
are my roommates, so every night if I need help with something with the playbook, they let me know. I’ve just been reading the playbook and watching a lot of film so hopefully watching all this film and studying, I’ll be able to pick up more of the plays faster and faster.
“Right now I’m just trying to get in and play and show the world what I can do. I’m not here to be a star or anything. I just want to play my role. Whatever I can do to help this team win, that’s what I’m going to do. I’m not trying to come in and be big time or something that I’m not. I just want to play my role.”
When Arizona State secured the commitment of Demario Richard, a highly-touted running back with more than 20 scholarship offers from around the country, the Sun Devils figured to finally have their running back of the future in place. Little did ASU or Richard know of the struggle that awaited them. Yet with the academic issues now behind him, Richard says he’s ready for his next challenge.