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Mike Richardson: Cornerback has two different personalities

Kate Gales | Friday, November 17, 2006

On the field, he’s a hard-hitting cornerback.

Off the field, he’s a self-described “nice guy” with an inexplicable fear of large spiders.

Cornerback Mike Richardson has seen a lot in his five years at Notre Dame, and he’s wiser for it.

Richardson was recruited at Stanford by former coach Tyrone Willingham. When Willingham accepted the coaching job at Notre Dame, Richardson took a visit to Notre Dame.

“I ended up liking it, deciding that that’s where I needed to be,” Richardson said.

He had been playing organized football since he was nine.

“I used to play backyard football with my friends from school,” he said. “They were all playing organized football and they were like, ‘You should come out and play.’ So I went out and joined the team and I actually turned out to be pretty good.”

He started playing at running back and safety. With the Irish, he sat out his freshman year as a rookie cornerback, and played primarily on special teams as a sophomore.

As a junior, Richardson started five games. That season, he had 33 tackles, one interception, forced three fumbles and was credited with three broken passes.

Then there was a coaching change, as current Irish coach Charlie Weis replaced Willingham.

“It was tough losing some of the people that brought me in,” Richardson said. “But I knew of Coach Weis, I knew of his reputation, and he came with a great staff. He was very positive about it.”

Last season, as a senior, Richardson was sixth on the team with 55 tackles and started all 12 games. He also had a crucial interception in Notre Dame’s loss to USC on Oct. 15, 2005, ending a potential Trojans scoring drive in the third quarter. That game remains one of Richardson’s most vivid memories.

“The USC game last year was crazy,” he said. “Just being on the field it seemed like it was the loudest the stadium’s ever been. Towards the end, my heart was beating out of my chest, it was crazy. That was the best feeling I ever had, even though we lost.”

So far in 2006, Richardson has 40 tackles, five for a loss, and has been credited with five pass break ups and one quarterback hurry. He said he’s developed by becoming more vocal.

“It helps with communication in the defensive backfield,” he said. “Being a more confident person when I’m playing and not being afraid to make mistakes – that was a big thing that limited me when I was younger. I was scared to make mistakes and I was playing tentative. That’s when you do make mistakes.”

Aside from football, Richardson enjoyed the dorm life of Notre Dame.

“It was always fun living in the dorms, I had the regular roommates and everything,” he said. “[But] I didn’t really get to see my roommates that much because of football.”

He also enjoyed the campus dining halls.

“It was cool being on campus, I kind of miss the dining halls now living off campus, he said. “I hate cooking.”

He also doesn’t like water, claiming he needs floaties or a life jacket to go swimming. Fellow cornerback Ambrose Wooden also teases him about his fear of spiders, once putting fake ones all over Richardson’s off-campus house.

Although Richardson didn’t really like the joke, he describes himself as a friendly guy.

“I’m a real friendly guy,” he said. “A lot of people see me, like, oh yeah, Mike Richardson, he hits people; he tries to take people’s heads off all the time. He’s probably pretty mean. But I’m really easy to talk to, I’m easy to initiate conversations with.”

After this season concludes, Richardson hopes to play in the NFL. Weis likes his chances there.

“When I got here, everyone told me how crummy [Richardson] was,” Weis said. “Since I’ve been here, he’s gotten solid, he’s gotten better, and better, and better. And I’m the only one noticing. He’s going to be playing for somebody else next year. He’s not done playing.”