By Mike Kays
Phoenix Sports Editor
He’s heard it before.
Too small to play defense, which the ex-Muskogee High standout wound up doing.
Too small to be a Division I receiver, but he led the Southeastern Conference of Division II in receiving, earning All-America honors.
Too small to be an NFL receiver — you won’t find him on any NFL mock drafts.
Don’t be too quick to count Shjuan Richardson out again.
The 5-foot-8, 172-pounder will be at Cowboys Stadium for the NFL’s Super Regional combine next Sunday and Monday, having qualified from among 240 players at the NFL regional combine in Houston in mid-February.
In 2012, more than 25 percent of Super Regional participants earned NFL contracts.
Like his Twitter ID suggests, why can’t it be ShjuanTime?
“Wherever I go, I believe I can play with people,” he said.
Confidence is one thing. Skill is another, and he has made his statements in that department as well.
Richardson had 84 catches for 1,375 yards as a senior at Emporia State. He ranked third in the nation in total receiving yards, sixth in receiving yards per game and 18th in catches. He ended his Hornet career ranked second in school career receiving yards with 2,842 and career touchdown receptions with 28, and fifth in career catches with 169.
Richardson ran a 4.42 40-yard dash at Houston.
“That made me mad,” he said. “I’ve run 4.32 last summer at Emporia. I can’t be sure as to the specific reason, but I know they had us wear these big shirts we had to tuck in as opposed to doing it in tights (which is what he did at Emporia). I wasn’t comfortable.”
Strength is another factor. “I want to get my bench (press) up from Houston,” he said. “Instead of 9 to 10 reps at 225, I want 12 or 13 next week.”
His route-running, he felt, was good.
But will it be enough in Arlington?
“In my mind, 4.4 is fast enough for any league,” said Coleman Hughes, his former receivers coach at Muskogee. “He’s always had a knack for catching and making people miss. He’s deceptively fast.”
Hughes recalled a time in Summer Pride going into Richardson’s freshman season where the take on him on the defensive side of the ball was he was too small to play there.
“When I heard that I was like, ‘that’s fine. I’ll take him.’” Hughes said. “I knew his family, knew his background and I knew he would work. There’s a certain intangible in some kids in that regard and he has it.”
Playing as part of a receiving corps that included Oklahoma signee Jameel Owens, the 2007 All-Phoenix MVP, Richardson made the team his senior season with 49 catches for 692 yards and eight TDs as the Roughers advanced to the Class 6A semifinals.
Over the course of his MHS career, he eventually showed a physical side and became a starter on defense.
“Late junior, early senior year they found out he wasn’t afraid to take a hit,” Hughes said. “I knew it. And having that as a background playing on offense, he can read coverage be it cover 2, cover 4, cover 8, whatever.
“He can get off the line of scrimmage with quick feet, He’s got soft hands that can catch anything. Sure, if he was 6-2, he’s already be noticed, but you can’t put guys in a box because when you do, you’ll have one break out of it and make you look stupid.”
And Richardson, Hughes said, need only look within his own state to know that.
“Wes Welker (former Heritage Hall standout) wasn’t in that prototypical mold and look what he’s done at New England,” Hughes said. The 5-9, 187-pounder who went undrafted out of college has been selected to the Pro Bowl, the All-Pro Team, or both, in every season of his Patriots career.
Richardson initially signed out of college with Texas Southern, a Football Championship Subdivision (1-AA) school, but left before classes began his freshmen year and met up with Emporia State coach Garin Higgins.
“It was a good Division II and it made me realize that I still had a shot at doing what I wanted with my career provided I worked my butt off,” Richardson said.
And he’s prepared to do what he has to next weekend when the number of NFL scouts intensify from the scant few at the regional combine.
“All he has to do there is impress one person who is willing to take a chance, one person who says he can fit in his system,” Hughes said.
The event is set to be broadcast on the NFL Network.