“People tell me, and I’m not going to lie to you,” Richardson said. “I’m human. Did it affect me at one point? It did. I’m like, ‘Man,’ because I know I’m better than that. But I’m a man of faith. I just prayed about it.”
Richardson, one of four likely draft picks from Tennessee’s offensive line, believes his performance Wednesday at the Volunteers’ Pro Day should put his stock back on the rise. Richardson wanted to answer questions about his health and explosiveness.
Although Richardson didn’t miss a game in two years as a starter, he underwent knee surgery after the 2012 season and said he played at “about 65 percent” last fall.
“That’s why I felt I wasn’t as productive,” Richardson said. “Now I’m healthy. If I was this healthy during the season, (I would have been a) first-team All-American.”
Richardson produced a broad jump of 9 feet, 4 inches, and a vertical jump of 31 inches, according to results provided by the school. That vertical jump was a 6 ½ -inch improvement from his performance at the NFL Scouting Combine. Richardson also ran the 3-cone drill in 8.02 seconds and the 20-yard shuttle in 5.06 seconds.
“I tried to show them I was healthy,” said Richardson, who measured in at 326 pounds and just under 6-foot-6. “The knock is he’s not healthy, his knee’s hurting. The stuff like the vertical jump, the broad jump, shows I’m explosive.”
ESPN’s Mel Kiper Jr. said in a teleconference last month that he projects Richardson as a second-round pick. Rob Rang of nfldraftscout.com also has Richardson going in the second round.
“There’s a little bit of boom-or-bust factor with him that maybe you don’t see with Tennessee’s other players, but they don’t have Tiny’s upside either,” Rang said.
Offensive tackle Ja’Wuan James, center James Stone and guards Alex Bullard and Zach Fulton also participated in Tennessee’s Pro Day. James is projected as a second- or third-round pick by Kiper and as a third- or fourth-round selection by Rang. Fulton and Stone are expected to get selected on the final day of the draft. Bullard also could get drafted, though he’s more likely to end up a free agent.
Tennessee could become the first school to have four offensive linemen selected in the same draft since Notre Dame in 2003, according to STATS LLC. No school’s had five offensive linemen drafted in the same year since Nebraska in 1975.
“We’ve always just stuck to it and always came to work every day,” James said. “It’s definitely paying off. I’m glad we’re getting rewarded for it.”
The Pro Day workouts also featured a slimmed-down version of defensive tackle Daniel McCullers, projected by Rang to go anywhere from late in the second round to the fourth. McCullers says he played at 358-360 pounds last season and weighed 381 when he arrived on campus in 2012. He’s down to 348 now and wants to get to 335 by the start of the season.
“A couple of teams said they wanted me to get down, so that’s what I’m going to do,” McCullers said. “I’m just going to continue to work hard, work out and just sweat it off. It will come off quick. I’ve just got to keep it off.”