Richard Jr.’s transfer portal gamble pays off for NSU corner

Playing cornerback in a man-to-man defensive scheme requires a certain level of confidence.The same can be said for a college student-athlete – regardless of position — entering the transfer portal.

In sophomore cornerback Anthony Richard Jr., the Northwestern State football team found someone with the swagger for both.

“You have to bet on yourself,” said Richard Jr., who transferred from Division II Harding ahead of the 2023 spring semester. “If you don’t believe in yourself, who will?”

Richard Jr. indeed bet on himself and wound up in a place that was familiar with him before his sojourn to start college in Arkansas.

A 6-foot-2, 185-pounder, Richard Jr. is a product of Lafayette Christian Academy, a school that has provided the Demons with several players in the past decade.

“We recruited him when he was at Lafayette Christian,” sixth-year head coach Brad Laird said. “It was a situation where, during COVID, we weren’t taking a high school player at that position, but he was one who was high on our list at that position.

“When he jumped in the portal, we didn’t have to look at what he’d done at Harding. We knew what he was capable of from when he was at LCA. He had some quality reps at Harding and had some experience, but he was high on our radar early on. It was a no-brainer for us.”

Richard Jr. has started all three games for Northwestern State (0-3), which hosts Eastern Illinois (3-1) at 6 p.m. Saturday in the Demons’ final non-conference game of the season.

Solidifying the boundary corner spot in defensive coordinator Weston Glaser’s scheme, Richard Jr. has recorded nine tackles and broke up three passes, justifying his transfer decision and the faith he had in himself – even if he had no true dream destination when he entered the transfer portal.

“There was no goal, no expectations,” Richard Jr. said. “I really gave it to God, hoping he would provide a way, and he did. I ended up in a great spot that worked out perfectly for me.”

The LCA-to-NSU pipeline certainly did not hurt Richard Jr.’s decision nor his assimilation to the Demon program.

Although Richard Jr. and Dane Wallace are currently the only former Knights on the Northwestern State roster, several more former Demons who share a high school alma mater with Richard Jr. assisted with the decision-making process.

“I talked to Zach Clement,” Richard Jr. said. “I talked to Prince Malbrue. I talked to Dane. They did a lot for me. They were all great.”

None, however, were as important to Richard Jr. as Wallace, a sophomore wide receiver and lifelong friend and iron sharpener for the rangy Richard Jr.

“Our moms were best friends,” Richard Jr. said. “We’ve been raised together since we were three years old. He’s like a brother to me. He advised me to come here – he said a change was in the works. The culture was changing, and we were on the right path to getting this team to where it needs to be. I wanted to be a part of it.”

Although they are physically opposite – Wallace is a 5-8, 176-pounder who operates typically out of the slot – the longtime friends and friendly combatants are perfectly built to test one another.

“Dane is really shifty,” Richard Jr. said. “He’s a shorter guy and really speedy. He made sure I was always precise when it came to the first couple of steps of the line. Mentally, he was always there, giving me confidence, speaking life into me, being a brother basically.”

Family or not, Wallace helped Richard Jr. build the confidence to stand alone on an island in coverage or to take the transfer portal leap to his new home.

“Coach P (NSU cornerbacks coach Perry Carter) always says you have to be a dog,” Richard Jr. said. “You have to have that confidence, that swagger, the mentality that you’re the best. We play a lot of man here, and if you don’t have the chops, you’re not going to cut it.”