Kris Richardson has a good idea of how a college football player can eat. He raised two and coaches the offensive line at Sacramento State, which will face Richmond at 2 p.m. Saturday in the second round of the FCS playoffs. The big boys transform into magicians when it comes to food. They make it disappear without as much as a burp.
Richardson’s sons and several of those linemen devoured a Thanksgiving feast at the Folsom home of Richardson and his wife Kelly. And calling it a feast is putting it mildly. Seven tri tips, a turkey and a ham stood no chance against such hearty appetites. Richardson was spared from stuffing his refrigerator like a turkey with leftovers.
“A lot of meat got eaten and the damage to the pies was pretty considerable too,” Richardson said. Football talk was kept to a minimum because “when the guys come over, it’s a social setting. I let the guys be guys. The reality is they’re a bunch of big kids when you put them all in a room together. They start chuckling and laughing. When I peeked in the room, it was real quiet. They were probably making fun of me.”
All those years of feeding their sons, Kooper and Kaden, was like a walk in the park compared with the kitchen marathon last Thursday. Kooper and Kaden played for their father at Folsom High. Sacramento State coach Troy Taylor and Richardson coached together at Folsom, so a sideline reunion was by no means a surprise after Taylor was hired in 2019.
Kaden immediately transferred to Sacramento State from UC Davis to play again for his father. Kooper followed in 2021 as a graduate transfer from UC Davis after being a three-year starter at right tackle for the Aggies. They did not switch sides in the rivalry to spite the Aggies, but it would be safe to say there were no parting gifts.
Kooper started at right tackle for the Hornets last season and now plays in the Canadian Football League with the Saskatchewan Roughriders. Kaden is a redshirt sophomore who is paying his dues this season as a backup center.
Sacramento State has a young offensive line with right guard Brandon Weldon being the only senior starter. Center Nathan Mejia is a redshirt freshman, right tackle Ivan Garza is a redshirt sophomore, left guard Jackson Slater is a true sophomore and left tackle Troy Stiefel is a junior who was injured most of last season. Garza started 10 games in his place.
Kaden and Kooper share an apartment in Sacramento, so they can drive home whenever they want to mooch a meal or talk their mother into doing their laundry. Some of Kaden’s teammates are not as fortunate, and Thanksgiving might be just the first holiday they will not spend with their families. The season could stretch into the new year if the Hornets can make it to the FCS championship game on Jan. 8 in Frisco, Texas.
Let’s not get ahead of ourselves. A victory Saturday will the first for the Hornets in three playoff games since Taylor’s arrival. Sacramento State is 23-1 in the Big Sky Conference since 2019, but all those victories have not translated into success in the playoffs. The 11-0 Hornets are the No. 2 seed and earned a first-round bye for the third time in as many playoff appearances – not that the first two did them much good
Richardson could have remained at Folsom if success was all that mattered. He led the Bulldogs to state Division I-AA championships in 2017 and 2018. In fact, the Bulldogs were on their way to Norwalk for the 2018 title game when Richardson received a call from Taylor. The opportunity to coach at Sacramento State was too good to refuse.
“It was pretty simple,” Richardson said. “We always talked about Sac State being the perfect place. We always felt it was a diamond in the rough. We felt we could turn this place around and win a lot of football games. And I get to coach with one of my best friends.”