I will openly admit my bias in this entry. I am a faculty member at the University of Alabama and I love football. It was sheer delight to watch our team win the national championship in 2009 and it’s been great attending the games over these last two years and hoping for our rise to the top again. One of my favorite players on our team right now is Trent Richardson (#3). Of course I like him because he gets points on the board. But I also just love to watch him perform. His athleticism is astounding. He plows through tackles, shifts speed and direction on a dime, and is keenly aware of all the players on the field. Here are some highlights of Trent’s plays from the game against Florida a few weeks ago. Notice how many Florida players it takes to pull him down when they ever do!
How does he do that?
Trent uses his upper-lower patterning to great advantage with his ability to drive forward with quick and powerful legs meanwhile clutching a football to his chest and scanning his environment with his eyes. His sequencing of yield and push into reach and pull are highly evident as he can firmly plant his feet with each stride to yield into the ground and then powerfully push away.
He then reaches out that leg in a long stride in order to make forward progress. The through line of his power is evident from feet to head as he fully commits his whole body forward into space. His pelvis is right underneath him. He isn’t leading out with his chest when he runs and leaving his pelvis behind. He is also highly connected to his core as he can change his speed and direction quickly.
Several times this season he has made plays where he actually slows down, not always just bursting forward. It is great that he trusts his blockers downfield, but Trent’s ability to read the bodies of his opponents to dodge around them also helps make these plays. In our recent game against Ole Miss, Trent slows down and his Ole’ Miss opponent simply falls over from trying to switch direction. The Ole Miss player (#21) shows an example of just reaching and pulling from his upper body, without the underlying yield and push to adjust his lower body stance to keep him stable.
In order to break those tackles, the yield/push into reach/pull moments are most evident. If Trent was only leaning out with his upper body to move forward, he would be tackled easily. But that lower body is still pumping, always connected fully into his torso actions. He often incorporates twist and turns to break tackles as well. These are also due to his acute connection to his core and ability to freely move his spine as his head adjusts to see where he needs to go and then can lead him into a quick spin. And he knows that in order to be powerful, he cannot be rigid. You can see that he is not trying to hold any particular alignment, but rather allowing his body to adjust to the blows coming from other players. Check out this clip where he slips at least 4 Arkansas players.
I mean, he’s so connected and flexible, players literally bounce off of Trent when they try to tackle him!
I wanna be like Trent
I think we could all learn a lot about how to live our lives from the way Trent Richardson plays football. Not only is his body (physicality) well prepared for his sport, but he demonstrates determination and commitment. He makes a decision to go somewhere and he is going to do everything in his power to get there. He knows he has to get to the end zone, but he also knows there are many different paths to get there, and that not every pathway works every time he is handed the ball.
When things don’t go as planned, he can adapt in the moment to readjust his choices and tactics, but not change the underlying goal. He is acutely aware of the space of the field and of every player on it. Thus he has great spatial awareness of his surroundings as well as situational awareness within each moment. And when he takes a hit, he either lets it fall like so much water off a duck’s back, or if they really get him down, he just jumps right back up and is ready for his next opportunity to move forward.
So let’s try to be more like Trent and pursue our goals with pluck and grit, but be flexible and ready to adapt in the moment when our plans go awry. We’ll keep our eyes on the prize but remember that it takes as much grounding and stability as it does reaching and mobility in order to go the distance, always aware of where we are and who is around us. Those things (or people) we once saw as obstacles might just be the perfect vault to launch us forward in a way we never thought possible. Roll Tide.