Sheldon Richardson's baby face is the first thing you notice. Then comes his mouth.
The Jets rookie defensive lineman is a "Rex Ryan guy" through and through. Energetic. Fun-loving. Constantly chirping.
"Sheldon's a really good guy," fellow rookie Oday Aboushi said. "He takes care of business but he also knows how to have fun. He likes to joke a lot, he's always in a good mood, so it kind of gives off that happy vibe around here."
"He has a lot of personality,'' right guard Willie Colon said.
Richardson's teammates love him. But the chip on his shoulder is always present. For years, he was told he was "too short and too small" to excel on defense. And even though he led all SEC interior linemen last year in tackles (75) -- with 10 1/2 tackles for loss and 4 1/2 sacks for Missouri -- some draft experts questioned how the 13th overall pick would fit in on a team known more for its 3-4 front.
But his versatility is what attracted the Jets to him. "You put him all over the place and he's just hitting it and he's going 100 mph," Ryan said this offseason.
Richardson's teammates praise his high motor, his athleticism and his personality. But every so often, the self-proclaimed "chubby kid in class everybody picked on" reveals himself, and the constant need to prove himself has the potential to rub people the wrong way.
"When he's around everybody else, he's happy-go-lucky, puff his chest out like 'I'm a big dog,' " Colon said. "But when he's one-on-one, he's a humble kid. He's extremely talented, too. His upside -- the sky's the limit."
Colon likened Richardson's versatility and demeanor to that of his former Steelers teammate Ziggy Hood (also a former Missouri Tiger) and former Raven and Patriot Adalius Thomas. And he believes Richardson can "definitely be a great ballplayer if he sticks to it and stays humble."
"It's a lot of 'I'm new, I want to make my mark, I want to be respected,' '' Colon said of Richardson's personality. "And me and him have had words. I've thrown him to the floor and he's beaten me on pass rushes. But I don't ever feel like he's over the line. I think he knows his role. He considers himself a big dog and he wants to run with the big dogs. And he barks a lot."
But "at the end of the day,'' defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson said, "everyone knows it's just jokes. He knows when there's a time to play and when there's a time not to.''
In time, the Jets hope Richardson will become a force on the defensive line.
"He's a tough guy," Aboushi said. "Sheldon's good at what he does and he plays real tough and hard and relentless. And that's what coach Rex Ryan preaches -- especially to the defense."