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From 'Zero To Hero,' Quinton Richardson Perseveres
Release: 09/07/2011
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Sept. 7, 2011

NOTE: This Thursday's UW football practice will be closed to all.

PARK & RIDE USERS, PLEASE NOTE: Due to Mercer St. ramp closures this weekend, Metro Service from the Federal Way and Renton Park & Ride locations has been altered. Click here for Federal Way schedule. Click here for Renton schedule. Metro urges fans to arrive at the Park & Ride locations earlier than normal.

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By Gregg Bell
UW Director of Writing

SEATTLE - Quinton Richardson doesn't need much more motivation. Or maturation, for that matter.

He has changed positions. He has been benched and re-claimed his starting job. Now, as of this week, he has returned from a high ankle sprain - just in time to aid a Huskies pass defense that could use a pick-me-up with Hawaii and its run-and-shoot offense arriving Saturday at 12:30 p.m. at Husky Stadium (ROOT Sports TV, the Washington IMG College radio network and here at GoHuskies.com for the live game chat and streaming audio).

And, above all, he has an infant son, 15-month-old Quinton Jr.

That tends to accelerate a 21-year-old maturing, eh?

"It's amazing, an amazing feeling. It changes you a lot. Helps you grow, become a better person, to mature," the engaging Richardson said. "Especially at my age, having him at 21, it makes you grow up. It made me work even harder last year."

Hard work at Richardson's position pays off. He plays one of the toughest positions in sports. A cornerback must excel while running stride for stride with a receiver whose route he usually doesn't know, and whom he basically cannot touch. Then he must cut and turn quickly enough to defend the pass when it arrives, even though he may not know when or if the throw is coming.

Yet he's overcome all that to become one of the outside pillars to Washington's defense, a unit that missed him last week after he sprained his ankle Aug. 13.

Asked how much it will help to have Richardson, who has practiced for the last week, playing this week against Bryant Moniz, Hawaii's 5,000-yard passer a season ago, fellow starting cornerback Desmond Trufant shook his head and said: "A lot."

"He's obviously one of the leaders of the team as a senior," said Trufant, a junior who saved last week's win with an end-zone interception in the final minute. "He's definitely going to have an impact."

If and when you see the Huskies in far more press, man-to-man coverage Saturday than they played in the debut against Eastern, it will be because coach Steve Sarkisian and defensive coordinator Nick Holt are demanding more aggression from the entire defense this week.

It will also be because Richardson and Trufant will be there, reunited, to do the pressing.

Trufant arrived as a freshman in 2009, the crossroads year of Richardson's career. That was the season Sarkisian and his staff, in their first year at UW, benched Richardson.

Was he mad at the new coaches for taking away his job as a sophomore?

"Oh, no, not at all. It was me," Richardson said recently over lunch at UW's Conibear Shellhouse, in the early days of his recovery from the sprain that has delayed his season debut. "They were just doing their jobs. I wouldn't put people on the field who were doing their jobs, who were making mistakes.

"It allowed me to better myself. I picked up from it. I got better from it. It allowed me to be a better person and a better player. That's just goes to show you how much I appreciate this coaching staff, and how much they've helped me grow."

The former do-it-all defender at Seattle's O'Dea High School always wanted to be a Husky. He arrived in 2008, changed from safety to cornerback - and promptly suffered through the nightmare, 0-12 season. Then got the coach who recruited him to Washington and whom Richardson greatly respected, fired.

At first, Richardson and Sarkisian "butted heads," to use Richardson's words. The new coach didn't like how Richardson took out his anger on teammates by throwing them to the ground in what were supposed to be non-tackling practices. Ultimately that season, Adam Long took his job.

That's when Richardson looked at Trufant. He saw a confident freshman starter prepared by two older brothers who are cornerbacks in the NFL: Marcus, with the Seattle Seahawks, and Isaiah, now on the New York Jets' practice squad.

"Just seeing Desmond come in with that confidence, telling himself `next play' if he got beat, that was a real eye-opener for me," Richardson said. "That became my motto: `Next play.' The next play is the only thing I can control -- that and my attitude."

He re-dedicated himself to effort on the field and preparation off it, and reclaimed his starting job last year. He teamed with Trufant to shut down offenses in the final month of the season as Washington won four straight games and its first bowl in nine years, sparking the win streak with an interception he returned for a touchdown against UCLA. He walked in UW graduation ceremonies in June with his girlfriend, whom he met walking to a dorm on campus as a freshman.

He calls that the best interception of his life.

"Yep, best one yet," he says, smiling.

He and Robin Gaspard had Quinton Jr., before last season.

"He's still my motivation now. That's why I worked so hard to graduate , to show him that football isn't always going to be there but education is even more important. Make sure you get your degree," Richardson said, smiling.

"My mom, she showed me that, so I want to make sure I can show my son."

"Mom" is Stephanie Richardson. She graduated from UW then raised Quinton as an only child in suburban Renton, Wash. You can hear her each Saturday screaming for No. 28 in purple and gold.

"Whenever she comes to camp, she's here to bring me snacks," Richardson said, laughing at his good fortune. "I don't have to go the dorm.

"Oh, it's terrific. Don't have to spend any money ordering pizza all the time."

Yes, life is so much better at UW for Richardson than it was in 2009. It doesn't even feel like he's at the same school.

"It's like going from zero to hero, you know?" he said. "Going from 0-12 to making a bowl game last year, it's just fantastic."

Sarkisian feels the same way about his senior leader.

"I like his confidence, and I think his ability to play man-to-man coverage, and his confidence there, has really grown," Sarkisian said last month. "In turn, when you have that overall confidence, I think you continually make more plays. ... And that's where he's at now.

"He's come a long way from where he was 2½ years ago. I appreciate Quinton. I appreciate his leadership, his willingness. He works extremely hard, and I think he offers a lot to our young guys because he was here when things weren't so great.

"He had to fight through it to get here, and I'm proud of him."

Through it all, Richardson said he's learned most to "stay consistent." "You can't be an up-and-down player in this game," he said.

"These coaches, they stayed on me the whole way through. They didn't give up on me. I think that's what I appreciate most."

So here he is, about to begin his delayed, final season of his Washington career full of motivation and maturity. The Huskies haven't been so well cornered in years.

"Oh, it goes by fast," Richardson said of his eventful time as a Husky. "It seems like just yesterday I was moving into the dorms and my mom was crying dropping me off.

"It goes by fast, man."

QUICK HITS: QB Keith Price was full-go for the first time this week and looked good throughout Wednesday's two-hour practice, after spraining his knee in the first half of the opener. He says he will likely again wear a brace, though this one Saturday will be more custom-fitting and less restrictive than the one that had him dumping off throws instead of running against Eastern. ... Sarkisian says RB Chris Polk "is a lot better" this week timing his cuts with his linemen's blocks in his first full week of work since he had arthroscopic knee surgery Aug. 18. The junior, 1,400-yard rusher from last season said he was rusty setting up his blocks in the opener. He played after just two days of practice - yet still gained 125 yards. ... WR Jermaine Kearse, who sprained his ankle in the first quarter last week and did not return, ran well for the third consecutive day while fully participating with the first-team offense.

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