Word leaked out initially on Twitter that the Seahawks, once they were finally done trading down, had taken Antonio “Tiny” Richardson, the 330-pound lineman out of Tennessee, with their initial pick of the 2014 draft.
Turned out it was actually wide receiver Paul Richardson, for whom the nickname Tiny would not be used in an ironic way, like calling the quiet guy “Gabby.” Richardson is, indeed, pretty tiny for an NFL wide receiver, which is now his profession after being taken with the 13th pick of the second round by Seattle.
The 6-foot Richardson played this year, at times, at a downright puny 158 pounds at the University of Colorado. He says he’s now beefed up to 183, and hopes to be at 190 by the time he reports to camp. Richardson told reporters he’s bulking up by eating more, and eating healthier, than he did in college.
“I’m doing it without creatine, or anything like that,’’ he said in a conference call with Seattle media. “It’s all natural.”
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The Seahawks, in the market to replace Golden Tate, were thought to be coveting a larger receiver. But Richardson fit their blueprint in a more important way: He possesses one skill that is transcendent, which rarely fails to win the heart and mind of John Schneider and Pete Carroll.
Richardson is a burner – the eighth-fastest player (and third-fastest receiver) at the combine in the 40-yard dash with his 4.40, a number that actually disappointed him. He says he had gone an electronically timed 4.28 in a workout leading up to the combine.
No matter – the Seahawks had watched than enough highlights of Richardson making dazzling plays despite being a marked man on a miserable Colorado team.
“With Paul, his speed and skillset jumped off the tape,’’ Seahawks’ Southwest area scout Matt Berry said. “It would be frustrating sometimes because he’d be open, and they couldn’t get him the ball. Or he’d be open down the field, and the ball didn’t get there.
“Every time they had a single-high safety, you’d hope they’d throw it to him, just to see his electric speed and play-making ability.”
One of the singular strengths of this Seahawks regime is that they look for an exploitable trait in the draft (or other realms of player acquisition), and then seize upon it. And they are no doubt drooling at the possibility of pairing Richardson with the equally explosive Percy Harvin, who in his brief stints last year showed how speed kills in the NFL.
“We’re about guys with special traits,’’ Berry said. “He’s a guy that had something different, and something exceptional, and I think that’s what drew us to him.”
Other teams might have fretted over Richardson’s slight frame, but the Seahawks saw his “understated confidence,” in Berry’s words, and uncanny ability to get off the line unscathed, despite his size. They saw the way he overcame the adversity of losing the 2012 season after ACL surgery. They saw the astounding 41.8-yard average per touchdown catch in his collegiate career. They looked at other receives once deemed too slight, like Marvin Harrison, Henry Allard, Keenan McCardell, Donald Driver – and their own Doug Baldwin — who thrived.
In the end, they looked at Richardson and saw “our kinda guy,’’ general manager John Schneider said.
“He was,’’ Schneider added, “too rare to pass up.”
“We’re looking for unique qualities,’’ Pete Carroll said. “You can’t make a little guy a big guy.”
But you can make him a bigger guy, which is what Richardson is now in the process of doing.
“I definitely realized I needed to gain weight from my coaches in college, and once I started gaining weight, I noticed how much more confident I was becoming in gaining weight, and how comfortable I was with my body,’’ Richardson said.
Richardson said his knee injury was “a freak accident. I’ve never had any issue with injury because of lack of size. I’m looking forward to having a healthy and durable career in the NFL.”
The Seahawks rave about Richardson’s character, writing off as a youthful indiscretion an incident that resulted in him being booted off the UCLA roster.
As an incoming freshman, Richardson, his cousin Shaquille, and Josh Shirley were dismissed by then-UCLA coach Rick Neuheisel after being arrested for allegedly stealing a purse. They were originally charged with felony theft, later reduced to a misdemeanor. Shaquille ended up at Arizona, Shirley at Washington, while Paul Richardson transferred to Colorado.
“It was really an immature incident that was blown out of proportion,’’ Berry said. “I think he’s moved on. He was basically a high school senior. He hadn’t even started college yet.”
Now Richardson is out of college and headed to the Seahawks, who focus on what he can do, rather than obsess over what he can’t.
“He’s kind of unique,’’ Berry said. “You see this skill set, and keep telling yourself he’s too small, he’s too small, he’s thin. And all he does is get open and make plays and make catches . Everyone on the field knows he’s who they’re trying to go to and he still comes through. Then you get a feel for who he is, his makeup, his confidence, his competitiveness, and you really buy in.”
Nothing tiny about that.
Larry Stone: 206-464-3146 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @StoneLarry