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Richardson accepting his role with Gators

Anthony Richardson warms up before the Florida Gators' Cotton Bowl matchup against Oklahoma.
Anthony Richardson warms up before the Florida Gators' Cotton Bowl matchup against Oklahoma. (Alex Shepherd)

The most popular player in a college town is often the backup quarterback. Maybe that was different when Tim Tebow was walking the streets in Gainesville, but for the most part, the backup quarterback is a fan favorite heaped with expectations and praise. Double those expectations when the backup is a hometown kid and looks the part of a future All-American.

At 6-4 and 232 pounds, Anthony Richardson looks like a young Cam Netwon in Orange and Blue. He's from just down the road and was a fan favorite as soon as he committed to Florida. Richardson has done all the right things since he enrolled early, even if he didn't get to reap all the benefits of that decision.

Richardson enrolled early, getting valuable practice time before the Gators' Orange Bowl matchup against Virginia but he was robbed of the opportunity to go through spring before his freshman season.

"It was kind of challenging, not gonna lie," Richardson said. "I didn't really get to finish my senior year of high school, so I was ready to just get going, just to start playing football again and just missing out on spring, that really took a toll on me because I wasn't able to learn as much as I needed to within that time. So just missing out on the spring and having COVID stop it, it was kind of tough."

With Kyle Trask and Emory Jones in place, Richardson's freshman season was always going to be spent auditing the Florida offense. He played his role willingly, headset on watching Trask put together one of the best seasons a quarterback has ever had in Gaineasville. Jones played sparingly when needed and Richardson was limited to just five games, two pass attempts, and seven carries. It's all part of the process for Richardson and he's being patient.

Heading into this year it's Jones' time to run the offense. Jones has been at Florida since January of 2018. He's watched and learned from Feleipe Franks and Kyle Trask while waiting for his opportunity to run this show. Richardson knows this and is doing his part as a teammate.

"My role on the team is just to be a good teammate to Emory, you know? He's been here for a long time," Jones said. "I know I just got here, but it's still going to be a competition, but all over competing, I try to be a good teammate just to keep him going, keep pushing, just keep the team going forward."

Trask waited for his opportunity, Jones did as well, and now Richardson has seen the benefits of being patient, learning, growing, and waiting for your time.

Just watching Kyle and Emory and everybody else, just the way how they process things and wait their time and just let things happen. Just keep fighting, relentless effort, and keep going," Richardson said. "As a quarterback, you can’t be too tempted. You can’t move too quick because if you do you might make the wrong read or a bad decision. You don’t need that as a quarterback because basically, you’re the leader of the team, so making smart decisions and being poised and being patient.”

Jones is using this spring to work on his accuracy. Everyone knows his athletic ability but he wants to become a more complete quarterback. He has the mentality that you never stay in the same place, you're either getting better or getting worse. So while Richardson is resigned to the fact that Jones will start, that doesn't mean he's not preparing to be the starting quarterback at some point.

"You never know when your name is called when your number is called," he said. "So just being ready to step on the field when the time comes."