INDIANAPOLIS — The football people in the know agree that no running back in the upcoming draft comes closer to being the total package than Alabama's Trent Richardson.
As was the case with Mark Ingram, the Crimson Tide's previous featured back, who was drafted late in the first round last season by the Saints, Richardson is expected to waste no time making his mark at the pro level.
Just ask him.
"When it comes down to it, I'll be the dude that's on the field getting the ball on 3rd-and-3 or 4th-and-1," said Richardson in a late Friday-afternoon interview at the Combine. "I can bring you a little-league tape and show you that I have never been caught from behind. If anyone wants to question my speed, just look at the tape.
"Everybody knows I can run the ball. A lot of people try to find a negative in my game, but there aren't too many negatives that I have."
A lot of pro scouts and coaches would no doubt love to see Richardson show off his jets in the Combine 40-yard-dash drills, but that's not going to happen due to a lateral meniscus injury that will keep him from strutting his stuff.
"I'm very disappointed I can't do the stuff here that everybody else can do," said Richardson, who averaged an impressive 5.9 yards per carry while rumbling for 1,679 yards and 21 TDs (24 total) this past season on the road to a national championship. "In college, it irked my nerves when I heard guys say they don't want to do this and that at the Combine. That's something that you dream of and want to do your whole life, and being a college football player and a competitor, I always wanted to come to this and show all my skills.
"That's what the top guys do."
Richardson is planning on participating in the non-running drills and still making a major impression. When asked what he was hoping to lift in the bench press, he wasn't afraid to aim for the loftiest of goals.
"Whatever the running back record is," he replied.
In addition to claiming that he never has been caught from behind, Richardson matter-of-factly bragged about his ability to hold on to the ball.
"I don't fumble," he said. "That's one thing that I do not do."
When asked what pro backs he admired the most, it wasn't surprising that Ingram was the first player Richardson mentioned.
"We talk pretty much, and I was always his biggest critic, and he's always my biggest critic," Richardson said. "When it comes down to it, it's all out of love, and we're just being competitive and being football players, just showing each other, 'Hey, I'm still on top of you when you're playing, and I'm still going to be looking out for you.'
"We really don't compare ourselves. Both of us run hard, and both of us just want to play the game of football and put our best effort forward. I have no negative to say about his game, and I'm pretty sure he has no negative to say about my game. When it comes down to it, we kind of play alike, but we don't. I think he puts more moves on people than what I would do. His vision for the game is crazy, when it comes to just seeing the hole right and seeing his one-cut move, and that's something that I have to work on this year."
Richardson implied that he might be a bit more of a physical back than his 'Bama buddy. "I love contact," he said. "I'm not saying that he don't love contact, but I think when it comes down to it, nine times out of 10, I'm going to hit you."
Richardson apparently has been a big hit on the interview scene with NFL teams earlier this week.
"I've probably talked to every team except like five," he said, specifically mentioning the Browns, Buccaneers, Redskins and Colts as teams that he had met with. "I talked to so many I can't even tell you how they feel."
Richardson said his combination of physical and mental toughness is a byproduct of his collegiate breeding ground.
"Our coach's name is Coach (Nick) Saban," he said. "If you come in without mental toughness, Coach Saban will make sure you have it. When it comes down to it, you have to have a mental toughness just to play at Alabama. If you're weak-minded, I don't think you'll last out there, because of the repetitions that we do and how hard we work out and just the fact that we all want to be winners."
PFW draft expert Nolan Nawrocki believes Richardson should easily be the big winner among his RB counterparts come late April, tabbing him to be selected 11th overall by the Chiefs in his most recent mock draft.
Richardson, it would appear, wouldn't expect anything less.