2016 ALL-AREA DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR: Richardson proves he can play DE
By Ethan Joyce
Sunday, December 25, 2016
On a recent night, Artavious Richardson was on Twitter - not a farfetched thing for a high school student.
He sent out a tweet around 8 p.m., a short and straightforward message that carried some heft.
The Rocky Mount High senior defensive end announced the three colleges he was considering. It came with the message, “It is a blessing to say this,” with some emojis tossed in.
An athlete posting his or her top schools is not unusual. But the 2016 Telegram All-Area Defensive Player of the Year signaled many things with his post naming Gardner-Webb, Norfolk State and N.C. A&T.
That his effort had been rewarded.
That his future was coming together.
And that he proved the people wrong who told him he needed to change.
“It comes with a whole lot of hard work, dedication and time,” Richardson said. “It is a blessing for me to even be in the category to be recruited by those schools.
“So many recruiters — not them (his top three) — but so many other people have said I was too small or undersized to play defensive end. And it is a blessing to be recruited by those three schools.”
Heading into his junior season, when recruiting typically heats up for prep athletes, he started hearing that he might not be the right size. Some recruiters suggested a move to outside linebacker. It hurt Richardson. He felt disappointed to be painted into that category before getting a chance to prove himself.
But those negative feelings didn’t last.
“(Those people) weren’t with me when I was putting in all the hard work and dedication it took to play defensive end,” Richardson said. “They were just looking from the outside.”
Rocky Mount High defensive coordinator Jermaine Jones saw Richardson’s mentality intensify. The lineman demanded more out of himself, his teammates, and even his coaches. Jones laughed about how Richardson would disrupt his summer relaxation by asking him to come oversee his workouts.
In the Gryphons’ scheme, the defensive ends play a crucial role in making the unit thrive. Jones said athletic ability took over once Richardson learned his role and that of his teammates. That is what makes Richardson’s upcoming graduation hard for his coordinator.
“You are losing some leadership, a dependable person, a team captain, you’re losing drive and determination and experience,” Jones said. “If you’ve got a necklace that you are going to give your wife, you are missing the perfect charm to go on that necklace.
“That is what you are missing, man. He is the glue that keeps everything together. Not only during games, but every day in practice.”
His last two years, Richardson worked himself into a defensive force. He had 107 total tackles and 16 tackles for loss in 2015, leading Rocky Mount High to the 3-A state title and the first football championship since 1963. This year, he had 88 tackles, an astounding 19 tackles for loss and 10 sacks.
The Gryphons reflected Richardson’s attitude this season. With players from the title team to replace, it forced new faces into the lineups. Rocky Mount took lumps during the season, earning losses to powerful 4-A Apex Middle Creek and Big East rival Southern Nash during the regular season. The Gryphons entered the playoffs as a four seed, earning an opening round home game, but they forced on the road the rest of the way.
Richardson and company charged their way back to the title game, falling to Belmont South Point, 16-7. While disappointing, Richardson and his teammates weren’t distraught with the loss. He was proud the team made it back to the championship game to defend its title.
For the defensive end that his teammates call ‘Tater,’ his determination to grow came from the team’s need for him to play that role. The fact that he and his teammates shattered expectations in the process makes their achievements more special.
“I felt like I could perfect my craft at defensive end and prove people wrong,” Richardson said. “At Rocky Mount, that is all we did. We proved people wrong because everybody seemed to think we couldn’t do this or we couldn’t do that.
“But that is life. I just dealt with it, let it be my energizer, and let it develop my skills as a defensive end.”
ALL-AREA FOOTBALL TEAM
Travis Griffin, Jr., QB, Nash Central - Griffin threw for 1,616 yards passing with 16 touchdowns. He rushed for 7 more scores.
Kendrick Bell, Jr., RB, Southern Nash - Bell rushed for 1,075 yards and 16 total touchdowns for the Big East champ Firebirds.
B.J. Sanders, Sr., RB, Rocky Mount High - Sanders had 1,359 yards rushing on 213 carries for 16 total touchdowns. He had eight games with more than 100 yards.
K.K. Edwards, Sr. WR, Rocky Mount High - Edwards had 49 receptions and 715 yards receiving with four touchdowns for the Gryphons.
C.J. Pearce, Sr., WR, Nash Central - The senior had 39 receptions for 768 yards receiving and 7 touchdowns.
Zonovan 'Bam' Knight, So., FLEX, Southern Nash - Knight had 1,007 yards rushing, 21 total touchdowns and drew raves from Big East coaches.
Qua'tavis Harrell, Sr., OL, North Edgecombe - Harrell led the way for three 1,000 yard rushers on the 11-2 Warriors.
David Keck, Sr., OL, Rocky Mount High - Keck was the center and long snapper for a Rocky Mount attack that ran for more than 4,000 yards.
Michael Wiggins, Sr. OL, Northern Nash - Wiggins was crucial to the Knights’ push into the playoffs.
Josh Taylor, Sr., OL, Southern Nash - Taylor powered an offensive line that helped gain more than 3,300 yards on the ground.
Nathan Paris, Sr., OL, Southern Nash - The tight end-offensive lineman combo provided blocking for two 1,000 yard rushers.
Artavious Richardson, Sr., DL, Rocky Mount High - Richardson had 88 tackles, 19 for a loss, and 10 sacks for the Gryphons.
Thomas Battle, Sr., DL, Rocky Mount High - Battle had 48 total tackles and clogged the center of the Gryphons' defensive line.
Phillip Willoughby, Jr., DL, Tarboro - Willoughby had 147 total tackles, 67 of which were solo.
Demetris Perry, Sr., DL, Southern Nash - Perry had 62 total tackles, 20.5 for a loss, 11 sacks and 2 forced fumbles.
Sherrod Greene, Sr., LB, Rocky Mount High - The South Carolina commit missed the first two games of the season but still had 96 tackles and grabbed two picks.
Gerquayle Staton, Sr., LB, Tarboro - In the heart of the Vikings' defense, Staton had 170 tackles, 100 of which were solo tackles.
Alex Nobles, Jr., LB, Nash Central - The Bulldog had 108 total tackels, 16 for a loss, and two sacks.
Detrell Revis, Jr., DB, Rocky Mount High - Revis had 97 tackles and 10 interceptions, emerging as a defensive star.
Romello Denton-Pippin, Sr., DB, Tarboro - Denton-Pippin had 126 tackles and two interceptions for the Vikings.
Ahmad Lyons, Sr., DB, North Edgecombe - Lyons had 60 tackles, three interceptions, two fumble recoveries and two blocked field goals. He also rushed for more than 1,000 yards on offense.
Nadir Thompson, Jr., DB, Southern Nash - The junior had 20 tackles and 1 interception.
Dawson Harris, Sr., K, Tarboro - Harris was 51 of 56 PATs and hit seven of his 10 field goal tries.
Dae’one Wilkins, Jr., LB, Southern Nash; Dylan Hodges, Sr., LB, SouthWest Edgecombe; Deangelo Collins, Sr., RB, Rocky Mount High; Fookie Williams, Jr., RB, Tarboro; Vernon Whitaker, Sr, RB, Nash Central; Mike Sherrod, Sr., RB, North Edgecombe; DeCarlo Royster, Sr., RB, Northern Nash; Shy’Keem Hussey, Jr., WR, Tarboro; Rod’quon White, Sr., LB, Rocky Mount High; Isaiah Gay, Sr., DE, Northern Nash; Kevin Darden, Sr., DL, Nash Central; Chase Miller, Sr., K, Rocky Mount High; Raymond Bullock, Sr., DB, Northern Nash.