NEW YORK -- Walking off the escalator just minutes after hearing the Heisman Trophy verdict, Trent Richardson was locked into his cell phone.
At least 100 text messages already clogged the inbox, each with a different twist on the prevailing theme. It was all encouragement for the Alabama running back in the moments following a third-place finish for college football’s grandest individual prize.
His recognizable smile didn’t fade despite the disappointment of falling a few hundred votes short of joining Mark Ingram in college football immortality. Those text messages certainly helped.
A few famous names mixed in with friends and teammates. Fellow Pensacola natives Emmitt Smith and Roy Jones Jr., both told Richardson how proud he made them for representing their hometown the right way.
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Just two weeks ago, he appeared to be the one who’d walk away with the grade prize.
He led most projections after running for a career-best 203 yards in a 42-14 pounding of Auburn. At that point, Richardson said he felt good about his chances of winning the stiff-armed statue.
“Yeah, just this whole season looking back, I feel maybe I should have won and like I said, this is a team effort,” Richardson. “And we still have the national championship.”
Before the ceremony, Richardson didn’t hide his anxiety.
Wrapped in a houndstooth scarf atop his shirt and tie, the hard-hitting running back said he was feeling the physical effects. He did his best to avoid the projections that called for an easy win for Robert Griffin III.
“I don’t try to look at that too much, because that ain’t going to be more nerve-wracking,” Richardson said. “I know people are saying it’s pretty close between me and Robert and Andrew. So it’s crazy right now. I’m really nervous. My hands, my palms are real sweaty right now. I can’t wait until they announce the results.”
The tension subsided just a bit when sharing a laugh on stage with LSU’s Tyrann Mathieu. Having Tide coach Nick Saban sitting next to LSU’s Les Miles made both finalists chuckle on stage.
Sitting in the audience, Richardson wondered how that seating arrangement came about.
“I was thinking in my head ‘Why would they do this?’” Richardson said. “No, they support each other. They’re friends. Life goes on when the pads come off. Me and Honey Badger was hanging this whole time in Orlando and New York. We’re all friends.”
The two who’ll face each other in the Superdome for the BCS title said they had a great time together at award shows.
Mathieu still took a few jabs for being run over by Richardson in the 9-6 LSU win over the Tide on Nov. 5. But he’s not holding a grudge.
“People think he’s a cold-hearted kind of guy,” Mathieu said. “But, he’s a sweetheart.”
That’s not the case on the field. Mathieu learned the hard way in LSU’s 9-6 win over Alabama on Nov. 5 when Richardson ran him over in a first-half run.
Playing games like that puts Richardson much more at ease compared to shirt-and-tie affairs like Saturday night’s.
“Before games, I don’t get nervous. I just know that’s home,” Richardson said. “Here, you’re on a big stage, or what feels like a bigger stage because you’re in front of hundreds of folks in that room and millions of folks going to be watching, and you’re name could be in the history books forever.”
In the end, his name will be a footnote in Griffin’s rise from relative obscurity to claim the ultimate individual award.
But unlike Griffin, Richardson still has a shot at the greatest team prize. He was reminded of that from a fan shouting one final message of support from the restaurant of a Times Square hotel after the ceremony.
“Hey Trent, do you know how you get back at them?” the fan yelled. “You win the national championship game.”
The only response necessary was written on Richardson’s smiling face.