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Wednesday, April 3, 2013
NFL hopes still alive for Richt's son

By David Ching

ATHENS, Ga. -- When Jon Richt transferred in 2009 from Clemson to play quarterback at tiny Mars Hill (N.C.) College, he figured that eliminated any possibility of someday becoming a professional football player.

“When I left there, I was just looking to have a good, fun college career and be able to play,” said Richt, who redshirted as a freshman in 2008 at Clemson before opting to spend his next four seasons at the NCAA Division II Baptist college.

And Richt, the son of Georgia coach Mark Richt, was able to have his share of fun on the field, leading Mars Hill to a 2011 South Atlantic Conference title and setting MHC career records for completions (567), attempts (1,109), yards (8,169) and touchdown passes (69) -- meaning his chances of playing pro football aren’t as dead as he once believed.

Richt realizes he’s a long shot, but he is holding out hope that a team might look his way on draft day -- or more likely during the undrafted free agent process immediately following the draft.

“I’m trying to stay very, very humble in my outlook,” Richt said. “I know that I’ve been given an opportunity to play a lot of football in college and I’m very thankful for it. And if somebody ends up liking me and I get into a camp, then I’m going to work my hardest to impress them and hopefully get onto a roster. But if I don’t, it’s definitely not the end of the world.”

ESPN Scouts Inc. lists Richt as the No. 24 quarterback prospect in the draft, which begins April 25. Only 11 quarterbacks were selected in last year’s draft, but many more receive the opportunity to win roster spots via free agency. And that’s the common theme Richt has heard in interactions with scouts during his senior season, at all-star games and at Georgia’s pro day two weeks ago.

“They definitely know I’m an underdog coming from a D2 school,” Richt said. “It’s basically one of those things where they like what I’ve done so far and hopefully they’re willing to throw my name in the pot, maybe not during draft day, but maybe the day after when they’re calling people to invite them to camp.”

Richt has been able to show off a strong arm in a pair of postseason all-star games -- the Raycom College Football All-Star Classic, where he backed up Purdue’s Robert Marve, and the South Carolina College All-Star Bowl -- and at Georgia’s pro day.

His father was the UGA connection, as Mark Richt set up Jon’s passing session on pro day with receiver Tavarres King and running back Richard Samuel since they needed a quarterback to throw to them before a collection of scouts.

“When Coach Richt called and asked if Jon could throw to me, I was like, ‘Heck yeah,’ because I knew he could throw,” said King, whom ESPN rates as the draft’s No. 12 wideout prospect. “So I was excited about it.”

Jon and his new receivers worked out their passing routine for about two weeks before pro day, then gave a strong showing by all accounts.

“He’s got an arm. He can sling it around,” King said. “He threw me a nice deep ball -- hit me in stride and I didn’t even break stride. It was nice just to have somebody come out there that can get me the ball and do it effectively and help himself out, as well.”

Added Richt: “I was blessed to be able to throw to one of the greatest receivers in the draft, I think, in Tavarres King. He was able to go out there and we connected pretty early, got a few weeks to prepare, and went out there and did really well.”

Richt, of course, understands his situation as well as any player in his position possibly could. Not only is his father a longtime college head coach who also had a long tenure as a quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator, his uncle Brad Johnson spent 15 seasons in the NFL as a quarterback.

Those family ties eliminate the need for an agent and also inform Richt of the odds he faces. His dad chased an NFL dream after his playing career at Miami, but was cut by the Miami Dolphins and Denver Broncos -- teams that had future Hall of Famers on their rosters at the time in Dan Marino and John Elway.

If playing in the pros doesn’t work out, Jon very well might follow his father’s career path, although he laughed and noted, “my dad hates the fact that I love [coaching], but I do.”

After Georgia’s pro day, Jon returned to Mars Hill to complete an internship working with the team’s quarterbacks. Much like his devout Christian father, Jon said he could see coaching or ministry positions -- or perhaps some combination -- as possible career paths.

“I love being around the game and I love being around the guys. And I just like every aspect of it,” he said. “It’s hard for me to walk away from it so easily.”