Trent Richardson says he just needed a little less freedom in the NFL and more of the structure he had at Alabama, and his professional career wouldn't have had such a terrible start.
Richardson told Matt Zenitz of AL.com that the daily grind under the watchful eye of Nick Saban at Alabama kept him from focusing on anything other than football. He racked up 1,679 yards, 21 touchdowns and unanimous All-American honors as a junior with the Crimson Tide before entering the 2012 NFL Draft where he was the No. 3 pick. Richardson is the only running back in the last nine NFL drafts to be picked in the top five.
The freedom of being an NFL player proved too much, though. While he managed 950 yards and 11 touchdowns as a rookie with the Cleveland Browns, he averaged 3.6 yards per carry and that number dropped to 2.9 yards with the Indianapolis Colts in 2013. He was reportedly fined 14 times by the Colts for being overweight before he was released after the 2014 season.
"It's very easy to get lazy in the NFL -- not having everything scheduled and not having everything like at Alabama where it was so structured," Richardson told Zenitz. "We had study hall or we had to get a workout in in between classes and had five classes a day. It was just so structured. In the NFL, everything's on your own."
Richardson got another chance with the Oakland Raiders, but couldn't make the final 53-man roster and sat out the 2015 season without a job. Now he's expected to join the Baltimore Ravens soon, where he promises things will be different.
"Hands down, this is the happiest I've been since I was at Alabama," Richardson told Zenitz. "What's different now is that I got rid of all the people that were around me, got rid of all the issues and worrying and the people keeping my mindset off the right thing to where I'm just back grinding and just trying to work every day to get better."
The Ravens rushing attack took a big step backwards in 2015, after Justin Forsett finished 2014 with 1,266 yards and a trip to the Pro Bowl. Forsett broke his arm in 2015, but led the team with 641 rushing yards in 10 games and was the only running back on the team to finish with more than four yards per attempt.