Paul Richardson has been a huge part of the resurgent Colorado football team. Both of them.
Yes, the junior wide receiver is making plays at a record rate and leads the nation in receiving yards after just two games, but he probably wouldn't be if not for the man whose name he inherited.
Paul Richardson Jr. says he has no bigger critic and no bigger fan than Paul Richardson Sr., who played wide receiver at UCLA in the early 1990s and had a cup of coffee in the NFL.
Paul Richardson Sr. coached his son at times when he was growing up. He taught him to respect the game and his opponents and to work hard at being the best he could be. When the younger Richardson's high school team needed more fire power on offense, Richardson added receiver to his repertoire after playing mostly cornerback when he was younger.
Richardson chuckled Tuesday when asked if there was ever a point when he had the stereotypical prima donna attitude of some of the more famous players to play wide receiver. He said his dad never would have allowed it.
"He was real aggressive in how he coached me, and I had a way different attitude than most receivers have," Richardson said about his dad Tuesday during the Buffs' weekly media luncheon. "So when I started playing receiver, I already had that work ethic embedded in me."
Richardson leads the nation in receiving yards through two games with 417 and is tied for second in receptions with 21. He already has seven catches for 20 yards or more and he needs only 29 yards this week to equal the Buffs' leader in receiving yards all of last season.
He also is almost halfway to Nelson Spruce's total of 44 receptions in 2012.
"I don't think anyone could have envisioned this," Richardson said. "I'm very grateful. I'm very blessed to have the start that I've had. I wanted to start off fast and I wanted us to do well early, but I never expected it to be this well."
CU hosts Fresno State on Saturday at Folsom Field and the Bulldogs represent a big step up in competition from Colorado State and Central Arkansas. But there are only so many ways to defend against Richardson and already has seen most of them. Yet, he continues to make catches and provide explosive plays for an offense that desperately missed him a year ago when he missed the year with a knee injury.
"I think Brian Lindgren does a great job, him and Troy Walters, of moving him around.," CU coach Mike MacIntyre said. "That's something we have discussed as a staff long and hard, moving him to all different spots so he could have ways to get open. He's gotten open down the middle. He's gotten open down the side. He's gotten open underneath. So that is all design and that's a great job by our offensive staff."
Richardson started the season with a pair of 200-yard receiving games. He has now produced two of the five such games in CU history and he has a chance to tie an NCAA record this week if he can notch a third.
Only two players in NCAA history have produced three consecutive games with 200 yards receiving. Howard Twilley did it for Tulsa in 1965 and Trevor Insley tied the record in 1999 for Nevada.
Insley actually had six 200-yard receiving performances in the 1999 season but only three of them came in consecutive contests.
There are numerous factors that have played a part in his success, coaching, his work ethic, the performance of his teammates, especially the offensive line and quarterback Connor Wood, and, of course, his father's influence.
Richardson, who said he wasn't really worried about what the defense did in high school and just ran downfield, said he is benefitting now from extra work he learned to put in early in his CU career.
During his freshman season when he realized he could no longer dominate defenses simply through his superior athleticism, he sought help in recognizing and reading coverages from former CU defensive coordinator and secondary coach Greg Brown.
Richardson said he has continued to pick the brains of defensive coaches with the new coaching staff, talking with cornerbacks coach Andy LaRussa and safeties coach Charles Clarke.
"I've grown up a lot," Richardson said. "I've gotten a little bit stronger, gotten faster. So those things have helped me. And I can read coverages better. So I can find sweet spots in the coverages."
Richardson said he does get surprised at times when he finds himself wide open, as he has at least twice already this season, mostly because the toughest balls to catch are those with no one there to challenge them.
While Richardson has been masterly in his first two games this season, MacIntyre didn't hesitate when asked how Richardson can get better. MacIntyre said Richardson needs to get stronger to be able to break more tackles and win balls in the air.
"No doubt he's an excellent player, but that's an area where if he got a little bit bigger and stronger he would have come down with a couple more of those," MacIntyre said.