Tough, cerebral, versatile.
How long have we heard Jordan Richards described this way?
Oh, since about his sophomore season at Folsom High School, throughout his four-year run at Stanford and now as a rookie safety with the New England Patriots.
Richards has seized his opportunities in making plays and catching coach Bill Belichick’s attention as a reserve.
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“Jordan’s a smart guy,” Belichick said last week on a conference call, via Patriots.com. “He’s well-prepared. He works hard. He really has a great approach to the game and fits in well with the team on all levels.”
Richards always has been a thinker in shoulder pads, the son of a former college football player who also was cerebral in approach and tough to deal with in gear. Terrence Richards grew up in Patriots territory in Massachusetts, where he played on the defensive line at Tufts in the late 1970s. Terrence even tried out for the Patriots.
“I wanted to last a little longer than he did,” Jordan said this season, laughing.
The kid has, and he looks to stick. Richards was a key player on Folsom’s CIF State Division II championship team in 2010, and he started 44 games in the secondary for Stanford, where he was a captain and a National Football Foundation Scholar-Athlete Award winner.
“Very mature for his age and experience,” Belichick said.
The real dream, of course, would be a homecoming of sorts. Should the Patriots, seeded second in the AFC playoffs, reach the Super Bowl, they’ll play at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, a nice drive from Folsom, where the Richards family still lives, and not far from Stanford. Levi’s also is where Richards played his last college game in the Foster Farms Bowl just over a year ago.
Family ties – Mya Sanchez, the 11-year-old girl from Turlock who placed second in the NFL’s punt, pass and kick competition in Indianapolis, has a deep local tie.
Her mom is Amber Sanchez, who went by Amber Oliver when she played on the Sierra College women’s basketball team that went 36-1 en route to the 1999 state championship under coach Roz Goldenberg. A guard, Sanchez earned all-state honors, and she remains a favorite of Goldenberg, now retired from coaching but still a health education professor at Sierra.
“One of the toughest and smartest athletes I ever coached, men or women, in my 30 years,” Goldenberg said.
State champs – American River and Sacramento City colleges basked in state championships in Fresno to close 2015.
The ARC cross country team won its fourth state trophy in five seasons with coach Rick Anderson and fifth overall. Top runners included (in order of state finish): Abdul Hamid, Donald Plazola, Sean Gregg, David French, Hassen Hassen, Brad Needles and Ross Walker. Anderson also has led state-championship track and field teams.
Sac City wrestling – with 11 medalists, one winner and seven All-Americans – edged Fresno City for the team title, its second in the last three years. Directed by longtime coach Dave Pacheco, the 2015 state Coach of the Year, Sac City scored points in all 12 weight classes. The Panthers’ lone champion was Dylan Fornazi at 165 pounds. According to Pacheco, the sophomore from Salinas is an example of improvement. Fornazi had not won a tournament in high school or college until this state meet.
“And he got his grades up and is now an Academic All-American to boot,” Pacheco said.
Manning out – Ryan Manning, a sophomore forward on Air Force’s basketball team, will miss the rest of the season because of a torn ACL. Manning played at Sheldon, where his dad, Rich, a former Center High and Syracuse standout, is an assistant coach and his brother, Matt, is a 6-foot-7 senior forward. Matt, a hard-throwing right-hander, also could be an early-round pick in the Major League Baseball draft in June.