CORTLAND, N.Y – It’s been one crazy year for Sheldon Richardson.
After emerging as Missouri’s breakout star during the Tigers’ inaugural season in the Southeastern Conference, Richardson was named second team all-SEC only to be the New York Jets’ first round pick of the NFL Draft months later, signing a four year-$10 million deal before training camp began.
“Right now I’m adjusting to it all,” Richardson said. “The NFL is a lot faster and more intense, and I’ve just been adjusting to it on a consistent day-to-day basis.”
At least the standout defensive end has an old teammate in New York to help him with the transition.
Jacquies Smith is a former Tigers lineman himself and is currently with the Jets as a member of their practice squad. He has been among the linemen helping Richardson learn coach Rex Ryan’s many defenses in a mentorship that started during their days at MU.
“I helped Sheldon out a lot when we were at Mizzou, so everything I know I’ve been giving to him, and he’s just been running with it all and handling it well,” Smith said.
It didn’t take long for the team’s staff to pick up on the duo’s friendship, and once they did, they decided to make the most of it and use it to the team’s advantage.
“When we’re in the classroom talking defense with the team, coach Ryan will pair Sheldon and I together and say, ‘I want the Mizzou guys to answer this,” or, “Let me see what the Mizzou guys have to say,’” Smith said. “And since we know each other so well it has really helped us learn better.”
Smith believes that Richardson will have a great career in New York and will prosper in Ryan’s system in due time.
“He was a really well liked guy coming out of Mizzou and he’s already looked good so far,” Smith said. “Once he gets acclimated, he’ll be scary.”
After starting his career at College of the Sequoias in Visalia, Calif., Richardson transferred to Missouri where he played two seasons for coach Gary Pinkel.
While Richardson was able to make an impact in his first season — he was named all-Big 12 honorable mention in what was his sophomore year — the newest member of the Jets believes off-season shoulder surgery before last season was the difference in his performance.
“I got healthy, that was pretty much it I was able to do what I needed to do I the SEC and adjust better,” he said. “They throw a lot more passes in the SEC so I was able to become a pass rusher.”