Richardson finds voice as Cyclones’ leader


Kelby Wingert/Iowa State Daily

Redshirt junior quarterback Sam Richardson looks for someone to pass to during the Iowa Corn Cy-Hawk Series game against Iowa on Sept. 13 at Kinnick Stadium in Iowa City. The Cyclones defeated the Hawkeyes 20-17. Richardson had 255 passing yards during the game.

Max Dible

At the quarterback position, confidence matters, but only in the context of a larger and more refined skill set of accuracy, instinct and pocket presence.

ISU coach Paul Rhoads has seen an obvious and less-than-subtle confidence permeate the ranks of his quarterback crew, which includes starter Sam Richardson as well as back-ups Grant Rohach and Joel Lanning.

But he added an important caveat.

“A guy can be confident and not throw an accurate ball, and it doesn’t matter,” Rhoads said. “You better throw some balls or you can take that confidence and that bubbly personality and put yourself on the sideline. They’re all doing what they need to do to make the offense work. That adds to the trust, and the trust adds to the confidence.”

The largest strides in the confidence-adjacent area of team leadership belong to Richardson, who is the undisputed starter as he enters his final season as a Cyclone in 2015.

The primary manifestation of the starting quarterback’s flourishing sense of command over his team resides primarily in the voice he’s given it; a voice he has deployed more readily and steadily this preseason than in any past.

“I think I’ve been pretty confident since last year, so I don’t think that’s something that I really need to work on,” Richardson said. “(It’s) just the vocal part of it. I think I was a leader last year, but with the guys that we had, they did a little more of the talking, and I kind of just led by example. But I’ve definitely put the weight on my shoulders this year.”

The burden Richardson has assumed is one that Rhoads said the quarterback wouldn’t have been able to shoulder in previous years, if he would have even recognized it as a requirement of his role.

He added that during that time, Richardson has actually morphed his personality, changing who he is as a human being to better suit himself for the position he plays.

Richardson’s verbal evolution as a leader exists at the forefront of that transformation.

“On the field, Sam’s probably speaking more in certain situations and that’s just a direct reflection on his leadership,” said pass game coordinator Todd Sturdy.

“He’s a fifth year senior and he knows what he’s talking about. So it’s always good when somebody knows what they’re talking about that they speak up and try to run the drills, so to speak.”

But it’s not only on the field where Richardson has found his voice.

“In team meetings, I’m really taking a major role, stepping in front of all the guys and kind of throwing myself out there,” Richardson said.

“I think it’s kind of making myself approachable to those young guys, whatever it is. I put high importance on that and trying to establish the leadership that I need for the season.”