St. Louis star defensive tackle/tight end Sheldon Richardson kept Missouri fans hanging in the wind almost until Signing Day, but in the end, the Gateway Tech prospect decided to stick with the hometown Tigers over the Coral Gables location of Miami.
“It was so close,” Richardson said. “It was neck and neck up until the last minute and I almost lost my mind!”
The SuperPrep Elite 50 pick said he felt confident in his commitment to Missouri (June ‘07) and never expected to look anywhere else. “I had a relationship with Missouri way before I even got my offer,” he said. “My freshman year I started feeling like they were checking me out, sizing me up really. I’ve known (CB) Coach (Cornell) Ford since I was 12 from recruiting my brother Shaun. Both Coach (Gary) Pinkel and Coach Ford are like part of the family.
“I knew I always wanted to go to Missouri because I felt so comfortable with not only the coaches, but the players and the school too,” Richardson said. “When I committed they had just come off the best season ever and everyone was just so pumped. I got the offer and I didn’t need to wait.”
Over the next year, Richardson started attracting the attention of some of the biggest programs around the country, including Miami.
“When I got the offer from Miami, I was shocked,” he said. “They don’t recruit in my area so for them to offer me was a big honor. I grew up watching the ‘Canes as a kid and it was my dream to play for them. I knew I at least had to go visit, just to see somewhere else. I mean I was Scout.com’s No.4 (defensive tackle) in the country; I should at least take one visit.
“I let Coach Ford know that I was going down there and he tried to talk me off my cloud a little bit, but he understood.” The 6-4, 270-pound Richardson insisted he arrived at Miami solid in his commitment to Missouri. “I never thought about decommitting until I got to Miami,” Richardson said. “I really just went to see what the other big conferences were like other than the Big 12.
“We got to Coral Gables and couldn’t believe how beautiful and laid-back it was,” he said. “I developed a great relationship with Coach (Randy) Shannon, (RB) Coach (Tommie) Robinson and (TE) Coach (Joe) Pannunzio, really all the Miami coaches. They didn’t try to talk me up or anything. All of them were real straight shooters.
“And I was really impressed with the unity of the Miami alumni. It’s not uncommon to see Ray Lewis (Baltimore Ravens) and Jeremy Shockey (New Orleans Saints) working out with the team, that’s how strong the alumni connection is.”
Richardson said the opportunity to play early at Miami as a tight end as another big factor. “ Coach Shannon said they have three senior tight ends and that there would definitely be a chance for me to see some play time right away and if everything worked out, I could be starting as a sophomore,” Richardson said. “That really stuck with me.”
In the end, Richardson said his decision not to defect to the ‘Canes came down to one thing…trust. “I was so confused. I couldn’t sleep, couldn’t eat, it was so stressful,” he said. “I was so torn between Missouri and Miami. I just finally sat back and asked myself who did I trust more?
“I had my answer, I trusted Coach Ford and Missouri…just like family,” Richardson said. “It’s easy to get lost in all the publicity and hype that happens during the recruiting process. Don’t get sucked up in all that. Keep your focus on what you want, not what others think you should want. Listen to your first instincts about a school or a coaches, whatever. It is usually the right one.”