There’s a picture in Mark-Antony Richards’ home.
In it, he dashes down the sideline in his Palm Beach Wellington Wolverines football jersey, and in front of him, his brother Ahmmon clears his path. The 81-yard score was his first of high school. He counts that moment as one of his two favorites relating to football.
You might not know his name, but you may know Ahmmon’s. He led the Miami Hurricanes with 934 receiving yards in 2016 and was named a freshman All-American. He was a four-star recruit when he came out of Wellington, touted as the nation’s 27th-best receiver. His brother, who graduates in 2019, is rated even higher.
Yes, Mark-Antony is billed as the nation’s fourth-best athlete as well as its 42nd-best player overall. And while some view him as likely to follow his brother’s footsteps to Coral Gables, he insists he’s keeping his options open. One such option, he said, is Florida.
“Growing up, my family, they were actually Florida Gators fans,” he said. “To get that offer was huge for me.”
The offer first came from former coach Jim McElwain’s staff, specifically running backs coach Ja’Juan Seider. Richards remembers Seider visited him during an exam. His coach scrambled to find him and get him excused, but he couldn’t.
Once the exam ended, Richards rushed to his coach’s office, where Seider was waiting to offer him.
When Dan Mullen took over, he briefly retained Seider, and Seider kept in touch with Richards. Then Mullen took over, pitching Richard’s on his ability to revolutionize Florida’s offense. The message resonated.
While Richard’s is listed as an athlete and his highlight film reveals his skills on both sides of the ball, he wants to play offense. He has since he first played for his local little league Giants at 8 years old. Back then, he played corner and safety.
But then, when the next season came, he switched.
“I’ve always loved it,” he said, “and when I first got the opportunity to play it, I took over. I made All-Stars every single year.”
He still remembers his first touchdown, which serves as his other favorite football memory. He was 10, and it was a pitch play. The ball hit the ground, Richards scooped it up, reversed field twice and scored.
Nowadays he compares his versatility with former Michigan star and current Cleveland Brown Jabrill Peppers. But he originally modeled his game after LaDainian Tomlinson, the NFL Hall of Fame running back who doubles as Richards’ favorite player. That’s who he wanted to turn into, but he worried.
Throughout middle school, he wondered if he’d get any offers. If he’d be able to play college football. If he’d get a chance to emulate Tomlinson. The first school to give him that chance was Miami.
The Hurricanes offered him his freshman year, and, “After that,” he said, “it kinda all blew up.”
Auburn wanted him. Georgia wanted him. Florida wanted him. And even though he grew up a Florida State fan, the Florida offer resonated in particular because of his childhood memories.
He remembers watching Tim Tebow and Percy Harvin, and he knows Mullen was at least partially responsible for their success.
But he was interested even before that. This past summer, he attended UF’s Friday Night Lights recruiting event. It remains the only time he’s visited Gainesville, and his stay was confined, he said, to the practice facility and Ben Hill Griffin Stadium.
He’s planning to visit again on April 14 for UF’s Spring game, and this time, he’d like to see more.
“I kinda hope they’ll let me visit the whole school and see the academic sections,” said Richards, who wants to study either business, finance or communications.
Regardless, he’s interested in Mullen’s past success. And despite growing up a fan of FSU and his brother’s status at UM, he’s willing to listen to Mullen’s message.
“I have a feel for their offense and what I could be if I were a part of it,” he said. “As of right now, they’re in great position.”
Richards said he plans to decide somewhere in the range of December to January, and he plans to visit his top-10 schools over the summer.