If you closed your eyes — actually, even if you had them open — and held a conversation with Mark-Antony Richards, you could almost imagine you were talking with his older brother, University of Miami star receiver Ahmmon Richards.
Mark-Antony sounds like Ahmmon.
Mark-Antony looks like Ahmmon.
Mark-Antony is a football talent like Ahmmon. He even reeled off the exact height and weight Ahmmon is listed at in the 2018 UM media guide — “6-1 and 205 pounds’’ — when asked for his own numbers. But fierce brotherly love and a shared history won’t necessarily be enough to reunite them on a football field.
Then again, maybe it will.
The younger Richards, 17, is his own man when it comes to making decisions, and he’s in the midst of contemplating one of the most difficult ones of his young lifetime: where to go to college in 2019.
Richards, designated by national recruiting sites as a four-star “athlete” who stars on both sides of the ball at Wellington High School in Palm Beach County, has several college football programs from which to choose.
“Plenty of schools,’’ Richards told the Miami Herald when asked what schools interested him after Paradise Camp in Coral Gables ended last Saturday. “Miami, Auburn, Florida, Tennessee, Texas A&M, Georgia, Ohio State... You can go down the line. At this point that’s one of the reasons I’m taking my time, to make sure the school is right for me.’’
While reporters were busy looking for Mark-Antony on the offensive side of the ball Saturday during the camp that drew 200 of the finest prep recruits in the nation, he was busy playing defensive back.
“I really enjoyed my time here,’’ he said, noting that at Wellington his “main position is running back.”
“I actually got pushed to play DB and other positions at a seven-on-seven ... in my sophomore year, summer. So, I played running back my freshman year, then sophomore year they kind of moved me out to slot receiver because they figured I could play it. Then we were at this Miami seven-on-seven and they figured I could play defense. They just kind of threw me out there for fun.
“I like corner, because you’re kind of on an island and there’s one man you’re focused on and I love shutting people down. I’m not really comfortable at receiver but I’m still learning positions.’’
And lest we forget specialist, Richards, who has been timed as fast as 4.46 seconds in the 40-yard dash, tallied more than 1,100 return yards as a junior. He rushed for 965 yards and had 605 receiving yards last season as a high school junior, according to the Palm Beach Post. Defensively, he had 56 tackles, three interceptions, two sacks and forced two fumbles.
Rivals.com has him as the nation’s 28th best prep player regardless of position, and the No. 1 all-purpose back. He has at least 18 scholarship offers, including the Hurricanes. 247Sports lists Richards as the fourth best “athlete” in the nation and 77th best player overall.
The Hurricanes would love nothing more than to have another Richards on their roster, though coaches and players are not allowed to talk about recruits publicly, per NCAA recruiting rules. Ahmmon Richards, going into his junior season, was a freshman All-American who broke records in leading the team with 934 receiving yards before multiple injuries hampered his sophomore season.
Will the fact that Ahmmon plays at Miami have any effect on Mark-Antony’s ultimate decision?
“No,’’ Mark-Antony said. “Sometimes falling into that trap isn’t always best for you. Look at Calvin Ridley and Riley Ridley. I just want to make sure I go to a school because it fits me best.’’
Calvin Ridley, a five-star receiver in the 2015 signing class, chose Alabama. Riley, a four-star receiver in the 2016 recruiting class, reportedly chose Georgia to not be in his brother’s shadow. Mark-Antony has no motives other than to go where it seems will be most beneficial for him.
“I just want to make sure I go to a school because it fits me best,’’ the younger Richards said.
Among the most important factors affecting his decision is “communication with the program, the coaches themselves and scheme-fits — just going wherever I fit best and where I’m utilized best.’’
He said Ahmmon talks to him about his decision-making process and the schools he’s contemplating instead of just dwelling on UM. “He says, ‘Just go somewhere you feel comfortable.’ He tells me, ‘Don’t come to Miami just because [I’m] there.’ If I do come to Miami, do it because I feel this is the school for me.’’
So, what about Miami?
“Miami, they’re doing all the right things,’’ Mark-Antony said, adding that “there isn’t anything you can dislike’’ about coach Mark Richt. “He’s really the perfect coach. That’s somebody I’d love to play for some day.’’
He liked the “high intensity’’ of Paradise Camp and the way the fans showed “a lot of love.’’
The Hurricanes, he said, “are on the rise. They’ve got so many guys... I feel like they’re going to be like Alabama. They’re going to do what Alabama did in a few years.’’
Don’t ask Mark-Antony what position he’ll be playing in college, let alone at Wellington this season.
“That’s still kind of undecided,’’ he insisted. “My coach, we make matchups and stuff. I might be at linebacker, D-end, corner, safety. Anywhere. I could be anywhere.’’