Tears, shock, disbelief.
University of Miami football players expressed their sadness Tuesday over the news that star junior receiver Ahmmon Richards’ career has ended because of a neck injury.
“It breaks your heart,’’ center Tyler Gauthier told reporters. “You guys knew Ahmmon was a first-round talent. He’s a first-round person.
“He’s a great dude. He was a light to the room. On bad days he would step up....a heck of a player.
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“I’m sure Ahmmon is going to do great in his life no matter what he does. He puts his head down and he works for anything he does. It definitely breaks your heart to see a kid like that go down. But we all got his back and we’re going to make sure he does good.”
Said Canes quarterback N’Kosi Perry: “It was devastating news. He was one of the best wide receivers I’ve ever seen in my life. “
Running back DeeJay Dallas said he cried when he learned the news.
“Sad, man. That really hurt... We kind of knew something was going on but we didn’t really know what it really was. Once they said he had to retire because of a neck injury I was shocked. I was like, ‘Dang, man! That sucks,’ because he has so much potential.
“When he was on the field I feel like one or two people couldn’t cover him, so you [had] to put a safety, linebacker and corner on him to stop him.’’
Richards, 6-1 and 205 pounds out of Wellington High, was projected by analysts to be a possible future first-round NFL Draft pick.
Richards was a freshman All-American in 2016 with a UM freshman record of 934 receiving yards (breaking former star Michael Irvin’s record) before sustaining several injuries in 2017, which included knee surgery late last season that forced him to miss this year’s spring practice. He returned this season supposedly fully healed but injured his knee after one catch early against LSU in the opener.
Coach Mark Richt told WQAM on Monday that Richards’ neck injury “was kind of a chronic thing that became to the point where the doctors felt like it wasn’t safe, so that was it.’’
On Tuesday, Richt was asked how he thought his players have processed the news.
“Things are moving so fast,” responded Richt, who previously said Richards will be kept on scholarship and hopefully take a player-coach sort of role “The season’s so busy with school and football and meetings and all that. And we’ve been kind of living without him in practice a lot, for over a month. So you just kind of know in football sometimes guys get hurt and they may not come back that season, they may not come back that week, they may not come back at all.
“I’m sure when everybody heard the news it was like, ‘Whoa, that’s big news.’ In a lot of ways they’re kind of conditioned to know we got to keep going, we can’t slow down. We obviously have feelings for our friend and our teammate without a doubt. We also know in football life’s got to keep going on. Just thankful Ahmmon is with us and is going to do great things in life.”
Miami offensive coordinator Thomas Brown praised Richards’ parents for doing a great job of raising him and said the players around him “have done a really good job of supporting him. He’s still going to be a Cane, a Cane for life...”
“You feel for him as an individual,’’ Brown added, “kind of just worry about him not getting off by himself and falling behind. We’ll keep loving him up.’’
Running back Trayone Gray said he felt bad because of Richards’ talent. “He could have had a bright future going to the next level,’’ Gray said. “Losing Ahmmon was tough on us, but he’ll be around to help us out a lot. I saw him yesterday. I told him, ‘Keep your head up,’ God’s got a plan for him. ‘Don’t give up.’
“He was a little down.’’
Dallas, who said he still has class with Richards, said he still texts him “probably like every other day.”
“Ahmmon was my host on my official visit,’’ Dallas said. “That’s why it stung so much to me, because he meant so much to me as a brother and as a teammate.”
When asked if No. 16 Miami (5-1, 2-0 Atlantic Coast Conference) will dedicate the season to him, Gauthier indicated the news had only come out after the Florida State game, and that the team has already been working to prepare for Virginia (3-2, 1-1).
Then, he added, “Something like that will happen for sure. It should.’’
▪ UM announced that third-string redshirt freshman quarterback Cade Weldon has been suspended for four games (including FSU) for violating team rules. Richt did not specify what Weldon did wrong.