On Thursday night, the Cleveland Browns made former Alabama running back Trent Richardson and Oklahoma State quarterback Brandon Weeden the Nos. 3 and 22 overall picks, respectively, in the 2012 NFL Draft.
On Friday afternoon, both Richardson and Weeden were introduced to the Cleveland media at the team’s Berea headquarters. After each of them held up their first Cleveland Browns jerseys, Richardson and Weeden talked about how much of a blessing it was to be with the team.
“I haven’t been able to sleep; I’m just so excited to be here,” Richardson said. “With all of the great running backs that have come here, I’m going to try and follow in their footsteps. To make a name for myself, it’s going to be big. I’ve got a lot respect to earn and a lot to prove. It’s just going to be a challenge for me and more of a big opportunity for me, especially in this community.”
Weeden added, “It’s an honor. This is, obviously, a great organization. To hear your name called, and I’m sure Trent can attest to this, to hear your name called on this night is special. It’s a dream come true for all of us. We’re ready to start playing football. We’ve been doing all this other stuff, travelling and we’re ready to line up and play some football.”
Richardson started 15 of the 38 career games at Alabama. During that time, he carried the ball 540 times for 3,130 yards and 35 touchdowns and averaged 82.37 yards-per-game. As a junior in 2011, Richardson ran for a school-record 1,679 yards and 21 touchdowns on 283 carries while more than doubling his average yards-per-game. After rushing for 53.64 and 63.64 yards-per-game behind Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram, Richardson ran for 129.15 yards-per-game in 2011.
Richardson also caught 68 career passes for 730 yards and seven touchdowns and returned 28 kickoffs for 720 yards at Alabama. His ability to make plays happen caught the attention of Weeden at Oklahoma State.
“I told people last week that he’s the best player in the country,” Weeden said. “Last year in college football, he was very dynamic. As a quarterback, it’s very comforting to hand the ball to a guy like this, one who can make a quarterback look good at times. He’ll make your offense really go.”
When he was not running the ball, Richardson picked up a reputation as being a solid pass-blocker, something he attributes to his family.
“Growing up, I was always the shortest,” Richardson said. “All of my brothers were bigger than me and I had to do something and make sure they stopped beating up on me all the time. With pass-blocking, it just comes natural to me. That’s the fastest way to put yourself on the bench if you don’t know how to block anybody. I want to be an every-down back. I want to be one of those guys that are always going to have his name remembered in the National Football League.”
Weeden took over the starting job at Oklahoma State in 2010 and earned All-Big 12 Conference first-team honors. He led the conference with a 154.1 passer efficiency rating and ranked second by averaging 327.7 yards-per-game of total offense.
In 2011, he led the Cowboys to an 11-1 mark in the regular season and the No. 3 ranking in the country. Behind Weeden, Oklahoma State defeated Stanford in the 2012 Tostitos Fiesta Bowl. He broke school single-season records for attempts (565), completions (409), yards (4,727) and touchdowns (37).
“It’s all about winning games,” Weeden said. “It doesn’t matter what level you’re at, it’s all about winning football games. Whatever my role is to do that, that’s the direction I’m going to go and I’m going to bust my tail to go in that direction. Playing quarterback in this league is demanding. I’m going to learn a whole new system, but it’s something I have the passion for. I’m going to do everything in my power to help this team win football games.”
DEALING WITH THE ELEMENTS
During the introductory press conference, Weeden was asked about his ability to throw in windy conditions. After asking the reporter if he had ever been to Oklahoma, Weeden talked about the Cowboys’ 66-6 win at Texas Tech last November.
Weeden completed 31 of 37 attempts for 423 yards and five touchdowns in the lopsided win over the Red Raiders.
“We played at Texas Tech this year and had gusts of 80 (miles-per-hour),” Weeden said. “There was stuff on the field and it was crazy, but I think it was one of my best throwing games of the year as far as accuracy and throwing the ball where I needed to. If you start to think about it, you’re in trouble. You throw the football tight, throw it where you want to go and it helps to put a little extra mustard on it here and there.”
ADVICE FROM COACH
Before coming to Cleveland, Richardson received some advice from his head coach at Alabama, Nick Saban. Saban has several ties to the Cleveland area, most notably as an assistant coach with the Browns under Bill Belichick from 1991-94. Saban also played defensive back at Kent State University, coached with the Golden Flashes from 1972-76 and later Ohio State University from 1980-81.
Richardson said Saban told him, “‘You’re going to love the community and the fans are going to be similar to Alabama fans. They love the town and they’re waiting for you and the football team to hit it off. You’re going to love being around that atmosphere. It’s going to be a lot like home. The atmosphere is like college football. It’s probably the closest place you can get to where the atmosphere is like college football.’ That’s what I’m used to and that’s what I love. That’s why I love to play this game, for the atmosphere and being around everybody.”