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Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
The Experience: D.J. Taught Me
Courtesy: Sun Devil Athletics
Release: 01/19/2016
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As told by Demario Richard

We’re in the Sun Bowl, five minutes left in our season, and Duke has just scored to go ahead by a point. Then Kalen returns the kickoff all the way to the four-yard line and we’re back in business.

It’s crunch time. The point in the game when your veterans get the ball.

As we huddle around Coach Norvell, I’m expecting No. 8 to take the field with the offense. Instead, D.J. looks across at me, calmly and confidently, and nods.

“Go get your fourth one little bro. I’ve been here and done it before.”

The next play I took a pitch from TK into the end zone for my fourth touchdown of the game that gave us the win.

We talked after the game and shed a tear together as he told me my time to grow up, to become a man, had arrived. He was getting ready to move into the receiver’s room, and he was passing the torch to me.

Coming in from high school, you just think you’re going to keep playing football like you have your whole life. That wasn’t the case. The speed of the game, the complexity of the offense, the harder hits you take; it’s a big transition.

D.J. taught me how to become mentally stronger and more mature, and how to take on any challenge that is thrown your way.

The two of us roomed together the night before every game my freshman year, and that’s where I really learned the meaning of football. Anyone can run, catch, score, but are you really playing football? Could you run the offense without the coaches around? Could you call the offense without the offensive coordinator? Do you really understand the playbook, the blocking schemes, the reason behind the things you are asked to do on the football field?

D.J. taught me how to play ball at the college level.

This past season, he was a Scholar Baller® and had over a 3.9 GPA. If I applied myself to school like I did to football, he would tell me, then I would be better off in the long run.

D.J. taught me how to be a real student-athlete and to put an emphasis on school.

Over the past two years, he’d always say that I should just be myself. That being genuine, polite, and caring was an important part of being a Sun Devil and a young man.  

D.J. taught me how to carry myself outside of football and how to interact with the media, fans, and other supporters of our program.

I found myself struggling over the summer, but he was by my side the whole time, pushing me more than anyone else on the team.

And that’s the type of leader I want to be. I want to be there for the younger guys, for the incoming class. He wasn’t a big talker on the field - get your job done, do what your coaches are asking you to do – but he would do anything for you off the field. Any time you wanted to talk, any topic you wanted to talk about, he was there. 

If someone needs help, then you help them. That’s what a leader does. And that’s what D.J. taught me.  



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