He is listed on the Stanford football roster as a strong safety, but to those inside the Cardinal program, Jordan Richards is a Technician.
The term is bestowed upon players with a top level of focus and commitment, both on and off the gridiron. According to head coach David Shaw, it is the team’s highest compliment.
“Jordan is always eager,” Shaw said. “He took a studious approach. As a freshman he watched the older guys and took unbelievable notes. You could see his notebook and all the different coaching points that were made.”
Copious study habits paid off for Richards, a finalist for the 2014 William V. Campbell Trophy. Even in his freshman season of 2011 the native of Folsom, Calif., appeared in 13 games and made three starts with 31 tackles. With more experience came more success, including an All-Pac-12 honorable mention distinction as a sophomore.
Now as a senior, Richards is a team captain and leader of the defense for Stanford, which has racked up 39 wins and captured two major bowl games since he arrived in Palo Alto. Richards leads the Cardinal in tackles (43) through nine games and is also a semifinalist for the Lott IMPACT Trophy, which goes to the nation’s top defensive player with the highest character.
“For me as a young player, I was just trying to absorb as much as I can from the upperclassmen that have come before me, both academically and athletically,” said the 5-foot-11 Richards. “I’ve had some really good teammates that kind of poured some of their knowledge and experiences into me.”
Away from football, Richards has done what he can to pass his knowledge onto others. Sporting a 3.31 GPA in the Public Policy program with a focus on education policy, Richards spent two quarters last year driving to East Palo Alto each week to help junior high school students with their school work. This summer he worked in Redwood City with first generation Latino students, teaching math to prepare them for their freshmen year of high school.
“In some ways, Jordan is a typical Public Policy student – thoughtful, committed, studious, and willing to lend a hand,” said Greg Rosston, the director of Stanford’s Public Policy program. “Just this statement is high praise because we have a great set of students who want to make the world a better place. Adding a full football schedule to being a member of that elite group makes him even more special.”
Richards is also a Public Policy peer advisor, helping guide underclassmen and navigate through their coursework.
“Any opportunity I have to promote our program, I try to,” Richards said. “Whether that is in a formal setting or a luncheon with prospective students, I try to make sure I’m there as a resource for those students. Just be an ambassador to the program and tell people how much I’ve enjoyed my experiences.”
Shaw also sees Richards as an ambassador for his program. The coach points to his captain’s work ethic, drive, and desire as hallmarks of what a Cardinal player should be.
“You leave these younger guys with the memory of, ‘Wow, that guy was here and look what he accomplished. Look what he’s accomplishing at that next level,’” Shaw said. “He’s that guy you put up on a pedestal and say, ‘Here’s what you do, here’s how to be.’ Hopefully the young guys can emulate him and his persona lives on in the younger guys that had the fortune to play along with him.”
Richards has enough units to graduate after the winter quarter, but his thirst for knowledge will not let him rest easy. He has stacked his course load for the winter and the spring, seeking to capitalize on all that a Stanford education offers. He said he plans to get his Master’s in education in the future.
With four years of impressive play under his belt, it is likely Richards will elicit attention from NFL squads next season. According to Shaw, Richards’ athleticism and anticipation will transfer well to the professional ranks.
Whether he finds himself in the NFL next fall or back in the classroom working on his Master’s, Richards’ quest for education will continue.
“I’ve always just tried to do my best to take advantage of opportunities to learn,” Richards said. “Take advantage of the knowledge passed down. Whether that’s in the film room or being a critic of myself and my game, as well as understanding my weaknesses academically, and doing whatever I can to turn those weaknesses into strengths.”