Long before he was a first-round draft pick, Sheldon Richardson decided he wasn’t going to let his size hold him back.
“I was always the chubby kid in class that everybody picked on,” said the 6-3, 294-pound rookie defensive tackle. “I was. And I played with a chip on my shoulder. I still feel like I’m the same kid.
“I like to do what skinny guys do. (If they) dunk a basketball, I want to jump as high as (them) and dunk a basketball. I happen to be able to dunk a basketball because of it. I have fun. I’m a kid out there.”
The St. Louis native -- who was selected 13th overall using the draft pick given to the Jets by Tampa Bay in the last month’s Darrelle Revis trade – said his versatility is his biggest asset. At 275 pounds, he returned punts and kickoffs in high school, he said.
And it’s his skill, passion and athleticism that made the former Mizzou defensive lineman one of the highest-rated players on the Jets’ draft board.
“It’s never a weakness,” he said of his versatility. “All you have to do is adjust and know what you are doing.”
Rex Ryan saw that up close and personal on Friday.
“On defense, it was pretty obvious who stood out there – I mean Sheldon Richardson was good,” the coach said following the team’s first rookie minicamp practice. “I don't want to but expectations too high but, yeah, he was impressive to say the least.”
Richardson, who played both nose tackle and three-technique tackle during practice, said the speed of the NFL is much different than in college.
“Way faster,” said the former Mizzou standout. “Not as much banging, but it’s way faster. Less reps, when you get in you have to make sure your reps are perfect. You have to get your technique down.”
Richardson said he mostly was worried about being overly aggressive on the practice field. Ryan, however, didn’t mind the extra effort.
“There’s that old saying: ‘You can always slow them down, it’s hard to speed them up.’ That’s a good thing,” said the coach.
Asked about playing Richardson at nose tackle, Ryan responded: “Well, we move them around. Depending on our call, you can have a guy at nose, you can have him at 3-(technique), you can have him at 5-(technique), there are several different things that he can do.
“But one thing we saw, explosiveness, effort to the football, the guy loves to play, you can already tell that. You could have doubled (the length of) that practice and he would have been fine.
“I understand people saying: ‘He should go to a 4-3 team.’ Well, half our defense was played in a 4-3, at least. It doesn’t matter. Our thing is, just give us a good football player and this system will make a good player great. We’ll see what he does.”
Though the Jets were linked to various defensive linemen – Barkevious Mingo, Dion Jordan and Jarvis Jones – general manager John Idzik said during the draft that Richardson was one of the top 4 players on their draft board. On Friday, Ryan reiterated the team’s excitement about landing the athletic lineman.
“When John was talking about, ‘Hey, well there’s a chance we may be able to get him,’ all of us were like, “Really? That would be awesome.”