posted on November 18, 2012 11:57
In the end, it appears Sheldon Richardson's tumultuous fling with Missouri will come down to three letters:
DNP. MIA. Or his tweet (@GodForShort is his handle) after Syracuse scored the game-winning touchdown on Saturday:
There's no official word on Richardson's status going forward, as Gary Pinkel answered two questions on his star defender with the word "No." No, Richardson's absence didn't have an impact on Missouri's inability to sack Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib. No, he has no update on Richardson's suspension.
Richardson may play against Texas A&M -- who really knows at this point? -- but in all likelihood, the epitaph of Richardson's waning career in Columbia was written on Saturday. As his teammates attempted to become bowl eligibile, Richardson was spotted at a youth-league football game in St. Louis. Sources said he was suspended for skipping class or a study hall. He then allegedly refused to complete the punishment.
Maybe it's fitting that it ends this way. Richardson put together a season in the middle of Missouri's defensive line that few have seen before. He was a force, finally living up to the hype that he graciously accepted since his sophomore year in high school. There should be no doubts that Richardson is gone for the NFL. He'd be stupid not to leave. But this week proved that while most believe he was eyeing the draft, he already had his bags packed and both feet out the door.
The fling is over, and in the end, that's all Richardson's career was with Missouri. It was a fling. The handsome guy biding time with the girl-next-door until Kate Upton comes calling. Richardson never seemed to want to go all-in with Missouri. He committed and decommitted from Missouri throughout the recruiting process, both in high school and junior college. Miami and Southern Cal were those vivacious blondes trying to separate Richardson from homely Missouri.
He stuck with the Tigers, maybe out of love but maybe out of convenience. It looked like the time and effort Missouri's staff spent in nuturing its relationship with Richardson would pay off this year, after so many headaches and near heartbreaks. Richardson became the vocal leader of the team, a mouthpiece for the frustration of a lost season. After Missouri lost to Vanderbilt, it was Richardson's voice booming from the locker room, putting everyone on notice that there was still heart and pain around the team.
After Saturday's loss to Syracuse, there was silence from the locker room. It was the loudest silence possible, the gray noise trying to erase the echoes of Richardson's presence.
There may be more to the story of Richardson's suspension, and his teammates (perhaps misguidedly) tried to defend him after the game. But a star as bright as Richardson doesn't get suspended for one offense. That's what needs to be realized.
Richardson's final tweet of the night was blunt in its offensiveness for a defense that had no answers. Richardson's presence may not have won the game, but it couldn't have hurt the Tigers' chances. The hypotheticals don't matter now. Richardson's miscue will diminish his draft stock some, but he still has a bright future ahead of him. The path behind him, however, won't be as warmly regarded.
Before Saturday's game, Richardson tweeted a photo of an unnamed teammate's wrist, with "SR 34" written in marker on his tape. A sign of support for the big gap in the middle of Missouri's defense.
That tape is likely in a trashcan somewhere right now, dirtied and ripped and torn apart. Gone and forgotten.