Jim Brown is the greatest player in Cleveland Browns history, if not the entire NFL.
Trent Richardson hopes to earn those same accolades for himself someday.
“I want to be the best thing that ever happened to Cleveland,” the Browns rookie running back told me and SiriusXM NFL Radio co-host Jim Miller last week at the NFL’s Rookie Symposium in Aurora, Ohio.
“I want to be that type of all-time guy when it comes down to it.”
Richardson has plenty of work ahead to leave the game as the NFL’s all-time leading rusher as Brown did in 1965. But when it comes to diffusing an off-field controversy, Richardson is already an All-Pro.
Brown let it be known he wasn’t thrilled when the Browns made Richardson the No. 3 overall pick in April’s draft. Brown told ESPN 850 radio in Cleveland that the University of Alabama standout was an “ordinary” back and has subsequently stood by those comments.
“I don’t see anything outstanding about him,” Brown said. “It’s not said in a cruel manner. He’s very efficient and that’s what you want.
“I’m not trying to be mean. There are certain people you look at and there’s something special about them. I don’t see it.”
Richardson saw the critique and continues to get asked by the media about what Brown said. Other 21-year-olds may have gotten defensive and slighted Brown despite his storied legacy.
Richardson instead has handled the situation with maturity well beyond his age.
“For him to be an icon and someone you look up to, hopefully I have half the career that man did,” Richardson said. “I haven’t done anything yet. But I know in my head that I’ve got to show everybody I’m not an ordinary running back.
“To hear comments like that is nothing but motivation. I don’t have to debate and talk about my game. I let my film show it.”
Richardson’s game film from Alabama — where he rushed for 1,583 yards as a junior to help lead the Crimson Tide to a national championship — was so impressive that the Browns traded up from the No. 4 pick in the draft to guarantee his services. New offensive coordinator Brad Childress will use the 5-foot-10, 224-pound Richardson in ways similar to Adrian Peterson and Percy Harvin when he was head coach of the Minnesota Vikings.
“They’re doing a lot of stuff with me as far as coming out of the backfield,” Richardson said of Cleveland’s off-season practices. “They’re really putting me out there to showcase everything.
“There ain’t no sugarcoating. I’m going to get the ball. I’m going to catch the ball. I’m going to block. I’m going to do everything I can and they’re going to put me in the best situation. I want to be that guy they don’t have to take off the field.”
A Browns squad that finished 4-12 last season desperately needs that type of difference-maker on offense, especially with the strong likelihood that fellow rookie Brandon Weeden will take the starting quarterback job from incumbent Colt McCoy.
To that end, Richardson plans to spend the next few weeks before training camp following the same offseason routine that led to his college success. He is returning to Pensacola, Fla. for workouts under high school coach Derrick Boyd that include running on the beach and “working on my sand dunes.”
“This is probably going to be one of the hardest offseasons for me,” said Richardson, who has yet to sign his rookie contract. “I know I’ve got to learn the playbook, all the audibles and whatever I’ve got to do. I’m going to put my body through whatever I can to make sure I last for a 16-game season.
“Hopefully, this year we’ll be in the playoffs at the end of January. I’m going to do anything I can to be one of the most successful rookies that you don’t even think is a rookie.”
If he does that, Brown would have to concede he was wrong about Richardson.
“It means a lot to me when somebody tells me I can’t do something,” Richardson said. “When (Brown) put me as one caliber of player when I know that I’m a much greater player, I’m going to strive to be a greater player than anyone who came in as a rookie. That’s how I want my career to start off.”