UM junior receiver Ahmmon Richards’ football career is over because of a disabling neck injury, a source told The Miami Herald on Saturday evening.
The injury will prevent him from ever playing again.
The University of Miami confirmed the news in a written release that included a comment from Richards late Sunday afternoon.
“I’m extremely appreciative of the University’s athletic training and medical staffs for diagnosing this injury, and to the football coaches and staff for always putting my health first,” Richards said in the release. “I plan to continue working towards my degree at UM and look forward to the next chapter in my life.”
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Said Richt in the release: “While we share in Ahmmon’s disappointment that his football career is over, his health must be the top priority. Ahmmon will remain on full scholarship and we will continue to support him as a member of the Hurricanes family.”
Later Sunday evening, Richt addressed reporters on a conference call and referred to the written release when he was asked about the nature of Richards’ injury and the circumstances surrounding it. But he did indicate that emotionally it was tough for the coaching staff.
“First of all, all these guys, they’re not my sons, but in a lot of ways they’re like my sons,’’ Richt said. “We like to treat our players the way we would treat our own sons, our own children. As a staff, one of our big philosophies is that. So, when anything happens with your own child you grieve for him. It’s not easy to swallow for anybody.
“We’re just thankful he’s going to be able to lead a very productive life and that’s there’s nothing catastrophic as far as how his life is not changing dramatically from a physical standpoint as much as it is from being a ballplayer to not being a ballplayer. But anyway, we certainly feel his pain, you know?”
Added Richt: “We’re sad that it’s over for his career but we’ll love him up, take care of him and I know he’ll do well in life because he’s a sharp kid.”
The stunning news about Richards, who was considered a potential first-round NFL Draft pick, was revealed on the day UM rallied from a 20-point deficit to defeat Florida State, 28-27.
Richards is the second UM starter in the past 10 months whose football career ended because of a neck injury. Cornerback Malek Young sustained a career-ending neck injury in last year’s Orange Bowl.
Richards, a native of Wellington, has been out since UM’s opening-night loss to LSU with what Richt originally said was a bone bruise in his knee. Richards hasn’t been made available to reporters since, but Richt did confirm Sunday that Richards did, indeed, sustain a knee injury against LSU.
Richards’ career numbers: 74 catches for 1,382 yards and six touchdowns in 22 games spanning three seasons.
UM had revealed little about his status since, with coach Mark Richt saying he was “day to day” and that it was a possibility he could redshirt.
It’s unclear when or how the neck injury happened.
Asked about The Miami Herald’s information that Richards’ career is over, UM athletic director Blake James said Saturday night “he’s injured,” but declined to elaborate. Richards wasn’t available for comment but posted a pair of tweets after the game on his personal Twitter account.
The first was a quote tweet of the Hurricanes’ locker room reaction following Saturday’s game with the comment “Last time mixed emotions” with an emoji of hands throwing up The U.
The second simply said, “From the HEART I appreciate all of my fans.”
As a four-star recruit out of Wellington High, Richards chose UM over offers from Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Auburn, among others.
He earned freshman All-American honors in 2016, breaking Michael Irvin’s school record with 934 receiving yards on 49 catches, with three touchdown receptions. His 19.1 yards per catch average was 19th in the country and he was named second-team All-ACC.
Richards said before the season that he was determined to rebound after an injury-plagued sophomore season which included hamstring problems and a major knee injury sustained in a practice before the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game. The meniscus injury to his left knee required surgery, forcing him to miss spring practice this year.
Richards caught 24 passes for 339 yards and three touchdowns in eight games last season.
“I wouldn’t say [you’ll see] the same Ahmmon as two years ago,” he said in August. “I have a better understanding of college football. I’m bigger, faster, stronger.”
Richards caught one pass for nine yards in limited snaps against LSU before sustaining the knee injury.
During the offseason, Richards trained with Pittsburgh Steelers All-Pro receiver Antonio Brown, who good-naturedly nicknamed him “hamstring”
“It’s funny, he was like, ‘You’re number 82,’” Richards said of their conversation. “He called me ‘hamstring’ because he heard about my injuries. We were doing hamstring stretching and exercises and that helped. He said, ‘Keep working, your time will come, you are a great player, just stay on top of your hamstring and the rest will take care of itself.’ That was nice coming from Antonio Brown.”
Richards also worked with Saints Pro Bowl receiver Mike Thomas in Hollywood and tried to observe nuances of how both Brown and Thomas play the position.
He said last year’s injuries were “frustrating. It was lingering and I was trying to rush back from it. My family talked to me every day, saying my time is coming, trying to keep me encouraged.”
Before the season, NFL.com’s Lance Zierlein listed Richards eighth among 10 draft-eligible receivers to watch this season, adding: “When it comes to the traits and measurables that NFL scouts look for from a primary receiver, Richards certainly is not lacking. After bursting onto the scene with an explosive freshman season that With his size (6-1, 205, per school measurements), speed and experience, Richards is an intriguing [No. 1 receiver] type talent who might be flying under the radar just a bit.”
UM is recruiting Richards’ brother, Wellington High senior Mark-Antony Richards, who took an official recruiting visit to Miami this weekend and said he’s also considering Penn State, Auburn, Florida and Tennessee.
The Hurricanes originally recruited Richards as a defensive back, although the coaches have also compared him to UM running back DeeJay Dallas.
“Obviously, they really like me on defense,” Mark-Antony said. “They know I have a special skill set on offense. I think at this point they just want to get me on campus and figure it out from there.”
Miami Herald sports writer David Wilson contributed to this report.