Before Stanford began spring practice, it would have been easy for coach David Shaw to name a most valuable player.
Walk-on quarterback Jack Richardson, a redshirt sophomore, would have received the honor by default.
“If he couldn’t go,” Shaw said, “I’m not sure how we could practice.”
How’s that for value?
With starter K.J. Costello and freshman Davis Mills sidelined this spring due to injury, Richardson is the only healthy quarterback on the roster, creating both an unusual situation for the team and a unique opportunity for the lifelong Stanford fan to gain reps that would have otherwise been hard to come by.
Stanford finished the 2017 season with three experienced quarterbacks on the roster, but Ryan Burns‘ eligibility was up at season’s end and Keller Chryst announced he would transfer — eventually settling on Tennessee — after losing his starting job to Costello. So Richardson, who has played one insignificant snap in two seasons in the program, figured to have a larger role this spring, but it wasn’t until Costello’s injury situation became clear a few weeks ago that Richardson saw he would be the only guy.
“He’s running the team right now more than I am,” Shaw said. “You could tell how hard he’s worked. He takes it extremely seriously. He wants to be efficient and proficient. I give him a lot of credit for learning and growing and pushing himself.”
The son of two former Stanford athletes, Richardson grew up about 80 miles south of Stanford in Salinas, California, where he set the school career record for passing yards (4,300) at Palma High School and was a second-team all-state selection in 2015. His mother, Teresa, a former volleyball star, is a member of the Stanford Hall of Fame and was the Pac-10 Player of the Year in 1986. His father, Kevin, played linebacker for the Cardinal from 1984 to 1989 and led the team in tackles in 1987.
Kevin proposed marriage via a message flying behind the back of a plane during the Big Game in 1991. The family is Stanford through and through.
“It has always been my dream to come to Stanford and play quarterback,” Richardson said.
At 6-foot-5 and 202 pounds, he has the size to play quarterback in Division I, but his initial recruiting interest came from the Division III level. Eventually, schools like Washington, San Jose State and a few in the Ivy League offered walk-on opportunities, but Richardson’s primary focus was getting admitted to Stanford as a student.
“Sure enough, senior year I got the walk-on offer from Stanford and my schoolwork was squared away so I was able to get in,” he said.
While Richardson is the only quarterback on the roster who is practicing, he’s not the only one throwing passes in practice. Burns and recently promoted offensive coordinator Tavita Pritchard, both former starting quarterbacks for the Cardinal, are lending their arms to make sure the receivers get enough individual reps.
In team periods, though, it’s all Richardson.
“I feel like I’m able to make the throws coaches expect from me,” he said. “Playbook-wise, I’m very confident. I’ve been getting into the playbook over the last several months and using our virtual reality lab to get those mental reps.”
When the scholarship players — who also will include incoming freshman Jack West in the summer — return fully healthy, there’s no expectation Richardson will push for a spot higher on the depth chart, but that won’t change the fact that, at least for a stretch, he was Stanford’s QB1.