SEFFNER — For months now, the Seffner citizenry has been teased and tantalized by its new quarterback. Through passing drills and plyometrics, it has been dazzled. By way of scholarship offers and seven-on-sevens, it has been enticed.
Now, Armwood fans are antsy for more.
They want to know if the goods exist beneath the layers of promise. They want to see if Darryl Jerome Richardson Jr. can efficiently steer this earth mover of an offense to a state title.
Wait just a bit longer, insists the person who knows him better than anyone on the planet. It will be worth it.
“He’s definitely, definitely ready, and I’m not saying that because he’s my son,” Liza Johnson says. “He has the ability, strength, courage and confidence that’s needed that they haven’t even tapped into yet.”
Perhaps never before in this county has a player with so much to offer also had so much to prove.
At 6-foot-6, 235 pounds, Richardson — the Tampa Bay Tech backup who transferred this year — is a pinup for physical upside. By virtually all accounts, he has few flaws, and fewer film clips.
His spring exploits were so astounding, he received scholarship offers from Tennessee, South Florida and Ohio State, giving him more offers than game-winning scoring drives.
Now, he steps behind center for MaxPreps’ No. 2-ranked team in the nation.
“It’s not really that much pressure, but it’s pressure,” said Richardson, 16. “I’ve got to get the job done.”
Four weeks before the start of preseason practice, we know this about the Hawks’ rangy right-hander: In addition to physical tools, he possesses quality genes, support at home, a surplus of zeal and a dearth of self-consciousness.
“The best thing about Darryl, and he has no clue about this because he’s so raw, is that if he doesn’t understand something, he says, ‘Coach, I don’t understand,’ ” Hawks offensive coordinator Evan Davis said.
“A lot of times you’ll ask a kid if they understand something and they’ll just nod their head yes. He’s like, ‘Coach, I don’t get it.’ And he usually does it right the next time.”
The oldest of two kids being raised by a single mom, Darryl’s father played at South Florida juggernaut Miami Northwestern. His uncle, Ron Johnson, played at Armwood, joined the Marines and made USF’s inaugural team as a 25-year-old freshman defensive end in 1997.
Darryl seemed destined to join that football heritage while still in diapers.
“He had (throwing) accuracy before he could even walk,” said Liza, noting Darryl Sr. remains a big part of her son’s life. “We all joked about how he was just so strong; it was amazing.”
By age 8, he was playing nose guard for the Ybor City Boys & Girls Club Eagles, arguably the best local pee wee team ever assembled.
The stars — Hawks tailback Matt Jones, former Plant two-way beast (and current FSU freshman) James Wilder Jr. and 2010 Florida Mr. Football Quentin Williams — were 10 and 11. Richardson had to play on their team because of his size.
“He started getting kind of chubby from, like, fifth grade to seventh,” Liza said. “But when he came back from the summer to go to eighth grade he was like this tall, slim, totally different person. He had a big burst.”
By his freshman year at Tampa Bay Tech, Richardson had reached the varsity as a late-season call-up. By his sophomore season, he was backing up established senior Jonathon Williams in an option-heavy offense.
“I think one of the things a lot of people miss is, regardless of his tangible skills, he still had to be able to grow into the role mentally,” former TBT offensive coordinator Daryl Stewart said. “And we had a kid who was a senior who was capable of doing many things.”
Seemingly destined to step in as the Titans’ starter this fall, Richardson’s family opted to move him to Armwood, where he has flourished academically. Liza confirms he earned straight-As in the final nine-week term.
On the field, Davis said he also has evolved into a quick study. Insulated by Jones and arguably the state’s best offensive line, Richardson is being nurtured minus the mental gravity of having to carry the Hawks’ offense himself.
But in a pinch, can he? Can he brandish a passer rating as staggering as his frame? A fan base awaits the answer.
“It’s coming,” Hawks coach Sean Callahan said of Richardson’s development. “And the good thing is, the mental part’s coming.”