August 3, 2014.
It is a day that will always be etched in Demario Richard’s mind, a day where he came to a fork in the road, a day that could have had his season, and career, play out very differently.
But first, we need to backtrack a little bit.
There I was, posted up for ASU’s Media Day with Sports360AZ’s Jared Cohen as we were prepping for the 2015 college football season. Senior center Nick Kelly threw out an observation that made my ears perk up: “No matter who you are, every freshman at one point wants to quit football…”
I had heard many freshman college athletes felt that way at some point, but every player?
Who was one of the next people we talked to? Sophomore running back Demario Richard. Remember him? The freshman who found the end zone eight times in 2014, including four touchdowns in the Sun Devils’ Sun Bowl victory. The one who will have an expanded role in the backfield now that senior D.J. Foster has moved to wide receiver and fellow sophomore Kalen Ballage could split time between running back and linebacker. Someone who found success on the field relatively quickly must not have felt that way, right?
“(I) Definitely did. August 3rd, third day of camp. I’ll never forget it, 11:30 – right after practice. Sitting in my locker, I questioned myself like, ‘Do I really want to play football? Is (Division I) football what I really want to do?’’ Richard said.
The feeling, though, did not last long. He spoke with ASU Director of Player Personnel Marcus Castro-Walker, who reassured the freshman from Palmdale, CA this was a natural feeling for a newcomer to the team who was adjusting to the riggers of playing for a Pac-12 football team.
“I ended up balling the next day of camp. It’s easy, you just need to play football,” Richard said.
Richard looked to D.J. Foster, who like Richard was a highly-touted running back expected to contribute right off the bat in his freshman year, for support to navigate his early career.
“That’s my mentor while he is here,” Richard said. “He just told me I need to maintain my focus and always remain confident, always be confident in myself and that’s what I did.
“I just took off after he told me that, and me and DJ became that one-two punch in the backfield.”
On August 3, 2015, Richard sat in that same locker and reflected on the one-year anniversary of that moment of doubt, but subsequently the moment he fully bought in to the program. He laughed with teammate and friend Armand Perry, wondering how they could already be sophomores and how that day that stopped him in his tracks is now just a blip on the radar.
“Now I just sit back and look at it like I was going through one of my days.”
Now, one of “his days” isn’t so much doubting if Tempe is the place he should be, but becoming a mainstay in the backfield for Mike Norvell’s offense.