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It happens once in a while during the heat of a Columbus East football practice, one of Aaron Richardson’s teammates will look over at him and give him a direction that has nothing to do with a play.
“Get me a mouthpiece.”
That would be a rather odd request, except that last season, Richardson was the team manager.
After three years doing all his work off the field, Richardson decided he wanted a bigger piece of the action. He strapped on a helmet and went looking for it as an offensive guard his senior year.
“I just felt the urge to play,” said Richardson, who became a team manager his freshman year. “I always looked up to my brother, Seth (2010 graduate), who was a defensive lineman here.”
While many schools may have somewhat of a class distinction between a manager and the players, Richardson said he always was treated with respect. “You get treated the same around here,” he said.
So when he decided to play, he wasn’t surprised at the team’s reaction. “They were all for it,” he said. “Plenty of people talked to me about it, so I started to lift weights.”
He admits that he gets teased on occasion, but it all has been worthwhile. “I have gotten great moral support.”
“I think it is awesome that he is playing,” said John Stephens, a senior who will start at right offensive tackle. “I was all for it. Yes, there are some jokes, but we are all business on the field.”
While Richardson was a manager, it didn’t mean he didn’t have ability. He was a youth football player who said he simply lost interest in the game.
He started to get the fire back last season and didn’t want his high school career to end without giving football another try.
“I don’t want to regret it,” he said.
He also wants to prove something to himself, he said, adding, “It’s just knowing that when I put my mind to something, I can get it done.”
With the temperature soaring into the 90s during workouts and the coaching staff pushing the players through sprints, Richardson tells himself to keep going.
“It’s 100 percent tougher being out there,” he said with a smile. “It’s a lot easier watching.”
East coach Bob Gaddis said Richardson came to him at the end of last season when the players were turning in their gear. “He said, ‘I think I am going to play next year,’” Gaddis said. “He started lifting weights in January and he hasn’t missed a workout since.”
Gaddis is not surprised that Richardson has taken his workouts so seriously.
“When he was a manager, he was a tremendous manager,” Gaddis said. “There is so much they do behind the scenes. Our players know. They treat them as team members. He always was one of us.”
Gaddis said Richardson is running with the second team.
“I don’t think there is any doubt that he will get some time under the lights,” Gaddis said. “I think he is loving this. He always hung with these guys anyway. And he’s got a tremendous attitude.”
All that said, Gaddis admits the transition is unusual.
“I’ve been doing this a long time,” he said, “and I never have had a manager make the jump.”
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