JACKSONVILLE – The ability is easy to see.
But when discussing Jaguars rookie right tackle Will Richardson Jr. , Dwayne Ledford said his reasons for optimism go beyond ability. The biggest reason:
Richardson wants his future to be bright. He really, really wants it.
“He works so hard at it,” Ledford, who coached Richardson as North Carolina State’s offensive line coach, said. “He wants this really bad.”
That desire was a major topic this past weekend.
The Jaguars selected Richardson in Round 4 of the 2018 NFL Draft. Jaguars General Manager David Caldwell shortly afterward talked about Richardson’s “love of football” and Executive Vice President of Football Operations Tom Coughlin discussed Richardson’s “desire to be a professional athlete” being a positive for Richardson.
Ledford said those traits are evident in Richardson – and have been as long as he has known the talented, athletic right tackle.
“Will and I had the conversations when I first got here – what it is you’re wanting to get out of this?” said Ledford, Richardson’s coach at N.C. State in 2016 and 2017. “That was his whole thing: he wants this really bad. He set that vision for himself, and he earned this opportunity to go out and realize that vision and those dreams he had.”
Richardson (6-feet-6, 302 pounds) impressed at the NFL Scouting Combine, bringing an impressive combination of athleticism with prototypical NFL size. Ledford said that was evident on a daily basis, as was an attitude Ledford said will help him at the next level.
“He’s impressive with how well he can move his feet,” Ledford said, adding that Richardson is “extremely flexible and really thick.”
“He can anchor down on people,” Ledford said. “He has a lot of strength.”
Richardson’s personality was evident to Jacksonville area media last weekend. During a post-draft conference call, Richardson discussed a variety of topics – including two well-publicized off-field incidents – confidently and openly.
“He has a tremendous attitude,” Ledford said. “We practice in the morning, and we get guys up extremely early. He was consistent in what you were going to get. I never remember a time where I had to get it out of him at practice. He always worked hard. He knew those practices and how good he was getting fundamentally would lead to him showcasing it on game day.
“He was a vocal guy on the field. He wore his emotions [openly]. He was a guy who would get excited over a pancake or a touchdown pass. He’s a guy who was always excited out there and guys fed off that.”
Ledford also called Richardson “a student of the game.”
“He would tell the center to be on the lookout for blitzers,” Ledford said. “When you match that with his physical tools, it allowed him to play at a really high level.”
Ledford said that approach allowed Richardson to improve daily, not only playing against Atlantic Coast Conference defensive ends each week, but playing against North Carolina State defensive end Bradley Chubb – the No. 5 overall selection by Denver in the ’18 draft – in practice daily.
“From the first year I was with him to the second year I was with him, we picked out the things he needed to work on,” Ledford said. “You could see him taking it off the film where he made those corrections. He’s a good student of the game. He knows his opponents week-in and week-out. I was always impressed with his preparation as a player going into each game.
“He’s a kid who’s going to give everything he’s got to it. He’s a kid who you love the way he practices and you love the way he plays on game day.”
Ledford, too, discussed Richardson’s response to the off-field issues. After missing a game as a redshirt freshman because of a driving under-the-influence charge, he served a two-game suspension in 2017 because of a marijuana-related violation.
Ledford said in the wake of the 2017 incident Richardson “made some really good decisions.”
“He showed maturity going into this past offseason,” Ledford said. “He did a great job. He knew what he wanted. He knew what was out there and what he had to show. He’s a really goal-oriented person.
“That’s his whole motivation. He wants to be an NFL football player and everything’s focused on that right now.”
Ledford discussed offensive guard Tony Adams, who signed with the Jaguars as an undrafted free agent shortly after the 2018 NFL Draft.
Adams (6-1, 302), projected by some analysts as a late-round selection was a second-team All-ACC selection as a senior and played in the East-West Shrine Game. He started 35 games in college, and he started at center as a true freshman.
“That says a lot about him,” Ledford said, adding that Adams was a captain as a senior. “He’s extremely bright. He knows the game inside and out and works extremely hard. The organization will be very happy with Tony the way he works. I think Tony’s going to have a really good NFL career.
“He was great with young players, teaching on and off the field. He was that guy that as a program it was easy to put that captain logo on. He embodied it so well.”