Troy Taylor describes Jordan Richards in a number of ways.
Polite. Physical. Playmaker.
Oh, and one more.
"What an animal," Taylor, the Folsom High School co-football coach, said Friday.
Richards is a junior strong safety at Stanford who seemingly hasn't slowed down since helping Folsom win the 2010 CIF State Division II championship.
In sports, it's a compliment to be deemed a "beast." That's Richards, and the moniker goes beyond tackles. Richards is known for his preparation tactics: Up early to hit the weight room. A full class load as a biology and public policy major. Practice, film review, more studying. The works.
Richards so impressed then-Stanford coach Jim Harbaugh after Folsom toppled state-ranked No. 1 Grant in the 2010 postseason that he hustled onto the field, telling CIF staffers who tried to stall him, "Don't you know who I am?"
Harbaugh cornered his recruit and said, "Can't wait to have you with us."
After Harbaugh left Stanford for the 49ers, Richards started three games as a freshman in 2011, then all 14 last season for the Rose Bowl champion. He's basking in his finest season on an 8-1 team ranked No. 6 and climbing the BCS standings.
Richards serves as the last line of defense for one of the nation's top units. While averaging five tackles per game, he had a season-high 10 two weeks ago against UCLA and made two interceptions.
He was in on four tackles Thursday night as the host Cardinal held on to beat No. 2 Oregon 26-20.
It was the second consecutive season in which Stanford beat Oregon, derailing the Ducks' national title aspirations.
At 5-foot-11 and 208 pounds, Richards has tailback speed and closing power, receiver hands and linebacker ferocity.
Stanford coach David Shaw calls Richards "dominant."
Taylor said he and Folsom co-coach Kris Richardson saw "greatness" in Richards years ago.
"He's the best high school leader I've ever been around," Taylor said. "We'd do a walk-through a day before the game, a player might be talking in the back, and he'd go, 'You're talking? You kidding me?' Guys responded to him. It's his personality. He's incredibly focused."
"We thought he'd be really good at Stanford, so not surprised at all," Taylor said. "You get 85 Jordan Richards on a roster – tough, smart, talented players – and that's hard to beat."
Taylor has delighted in Richards' growth in the Pacific-12 Conference, which is gaining more respect around the nation. He recalled running into Richards after the Big Game in 2011. Richards didn't play, but he didn't frown, either.
"Most kids his age might complain or blame someone else for not playing, but he came right out with it," Taylor said. "He said, 'I wasn't prepared. I didn't have good practices and didn't know my stuff. I didn't deserve to play.' That story right there tells you everything you need to know about Jordan Richards."
Richards laid the foundation at Folsom with his best moment coming against Grant in the 2010 Sac-Joaquin Section D-II championship.
With Harbaugh in attendance, Richards had a 43-yard touchdown reception, a 32-yard kickoff return to set up a score and a 77-yard catch. He also had a game-high 11 tackles and an interception.
"You can't overstate the significance of his impact on that team," Taylor said. "He played every single snap. What a player. The reason Jordan is such a great player is because he's self-motivated. That's who he is."
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