STILLWATER — John Paul Richardson’s catch was nearly perfect.
He executed a crisp 5-yard stick route, caught a quick pass from quarterback Spencer Sanders, made a defender miss as he turned upfield and 45 yards later dove into the end zone.
Less than five minutes into Oklahoma State’s first game of the season, the sophomore wide receiver had scored the team’s first touchdown.
There was just one issue. He held the ball in his arm facing the field.
“I told him, ‘Why in the world did you have that ball in your left hand?’” said Bucky Richardson, John Paul’s father. “So, I ribbed him about that. Of course I told him great job and how proud I was of him. I know how important it is to him.”
Bucky is Richardson’s first call after every game. The conversation is kept light, with more encouragement than critique from Bucky. He knows OSU’s coaching staff is there for that.
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It’s hard for the father-son duo not to talk football. Bucky was a quarterback at Texas A&M in the early 1990s and played four seasons in the NFL. Richardson said his father had the biggest impact on his career, and going to Aggies games as a kid laid the foundation for him becoming a college athlete.
But ever since Richardson was young, Bucky has enjoyed talking to him about everything except the games.
It’s something they refer to as the process.
“The process is everything else but the games,” Bucky said. “I think John Paul has always liked the process.”
Bucky tells a story of dropping Richardson off at OSU in early January 2021. Bucky emphasized to his son that as an early enrollee, committing to what the coaches told him to do would pay dividends in the future.
“Everybody enjoys the game, right? The game days, that’s easy to like,” Bucky said. “You’ve got to like the late January, at the stadium at 6:30 in the morning when it’s 10 degrees outside. You’ve got to like that too.”
Those are things Richardson has come to love. Practice, workouts, training regiments. His father stressed the importance of them early in Richardson’s life, and it is part of why 10 months after arriving on campus, Richardson caught his first collegiate touchdown as a true freshman late in an October game against Kansas State.
He would add another TD catch against Texas Tech.
Despite leading all freshmen on the roster in receiving yards, Richardson still felt undersized. That’s why he focused on gaining weight this offseason. He weighed 172 pounds when he arrived on campus, a number he increased to 190 in a few months this year.
“Now he’s just lacking live reps, experience,” coach Mike Gundy said. “He needs 150 plays in live games to kind of get over that hump, but he’s heading in that direction.”
Richardson laughs about having to attend the infamous workouts strength coach Rob Glass puts him through in the offseason, but attests that much of his weight gain development has come from OSU nutritionist Lauren Abbott.
Historically, Richardson said he eats whatever he wants, but after keying in on a specific diet, he has seen improvements. He keeps his fridge stocked with Gatorade protein shakes, drinking two of them every night.
Currently, he’s eating as much as his body can handle. There are still some drawbacks though.
“The greens,” he said with a laugh. “Obviously, nobody wants to eat the greens. We’d rather go over to Insomnia and grab a cookie, but you’ve got to eat it, you’ve got to have it. So I’d say broccoli and all that good stuff is the worst.”
Yet again though, the process has paid dividends for Richardson. Since gaining the weight, the biggest difference he sees compared to last year are his blocking skills.
“I tell people, the biggest transition from high school to college is blocking those dudes,” Richardson said. “I mean, they probably look big from the stands, but dang, they’re big dudes.”
That toughness is important. His father remembers Richardson always being speedy and elusive growing up in the Houston suburb of Missouri City, Texas, but an undervalued aspect was his son’s grit.
“He’s tough,” Bucky said. “I’ve seen him take good shots through the years and he bounced right up.”
Richardson vividly remembers one of the hardest hits he took in college. During his first spring game with the Cowboys, Richardson caught a pass before being slammed to the ground by former Cowboy linebacker Malcolm Rodriguez.
“That was a good little welcome,” Richardson said with a laugh.
It’s all part of the process for Richardson. The experience he gained as a freshman is part of it. The offseason grind too. It all comes together to help him continue to get better, he said.
“I know the work that I put in, day in and day out with my teammates,” Richardson continued. “It’s to prepare for moments like that in a game.”
Bucky knows Richardson is capable of it too. He just hopes his son holds the ball in the correct arm next time.
“I told him, ‘Since you were 8 years old, that was one of the things we always talked about when we saw people doing it on TV,’” Bucky said.