People always say that college years are the time to ‘find out who you are’. For University of Alabama-Birmingham defender Sumner Richardson, he’s well aware of who he is, who he represents, and what his future may hold.
Playing in both matches thus far for the Blazers, this is Sumner’s second season with UAB after he spent the first part of his college career at William Carey. “Once I left William Carey, I really didn’t idealize being far from home. I had a few other options, but they were all at least 6 hours from Jackson, Mississippi, Richardson told BGN. “I also have a really good friend that is on the team here as well, and after talking with him extensively, I realized what Coach Kinney was really about and I knew this program would become winners, whether it was sooner or later.
“The winning of this program before I got here wasn’t really an issue for me because challenges and difficulties are what build us in life, I’ve just seen it as something to help overcome. Another big aspect for coming here was my major. I’m in Nursing School here as well, and UAB is one of the top institutions you can attend for any medical degree. So through the months of transfer recruitment, I realized this school fit so many boxes for myself.”
Discussing his nursing major, Sumner said, “I have a girlfriend of the past 5 years, and her family were the ones that saw this as an option for me. Nursing is really just helping those in need, and I’ve always been able to be sympathetic for others’ situations regardless of what it is. You’ve really seen that across the board for nurses since this pandemic began”
With the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses have been receiving well-deserved credit for their work on the frontlines. “Even before we really knew what we were dealing with, those in the medical field knew this was it, and that they had to be there every day regardless of the personal ramifications,” he said. “We’ve been able to see consistent selflessness by those in that field and it makes me proud to feel like I’m joining others with the same mindset that I have for myself.”
While the pandemic impacted sports around the world, Sumner was making sure to put in the work to improve entering his senior year. “The focus on the offseason this year was simply working hard every day. I know that sounds very generalized, but once COVID hit a lot of schools just signed off for the rest of the Spring. Winners don’t take days off though, especially the ones you’re expected to work. We had zoom sessions for the remainder of the Spring doing backyard workouts and completing ball challenges we received.
That mindset of constantly grinding continued when the team was able to re-connect in person. “Once we came in and began things for preseason, we really stayed focused on staying focused quite literally. The NCAA hadn’t exactly told us what our fall, just a week or so away, would look like, meaning if we’d have games or not,” he said,
As an individual, what did the defender improve on most since last season? Sumner answered, “For myself, I would say I improved the most during the offseason on my ability to get forward. I worked on moves that I can utilize as an outside back to get into dangerous areas like our coaches have been wanting.”
“I’m not the fastest guy on the field, so I needed some moves to allow me to be more dangerous. I would probably say just going out there with an unabashed desire to win. When everybody is dedicated to winning every possible ball on our team, we can really suffocate teams with our play style. Add in some good midfielder ball movement and we can control the next two games.”
If you aren’t familiar with Sumner for his soccer skills, you may know him from one of his modeling gigs. As expected, his teammates have a good time with him for that. “The guys definitely give me a hard time about it,” he said with a laugh. “It’s probably once a week or so somebody says something, but I find it funny and even still some of the guys have quietly asked me on the side about it. Even the coaches recently have started to pile on me too because they found out about it, but that’s okay because I’m sure Coach Mark will pull me to the side any day now *laughs*. I got into it because of my girlfriend though.”
Whether it’s on the soccer pitch, as a nurse, or as a model, Richardson will be proudly representing his Native American heritage. “I know a pretty solid amount about my past heritage. My grandmother actually became the Chief recently so it’s deep in my family. I’m a part of the Perdido Bay Tribe, which essentially is a sub-section of the Cherokee’s,” he said.
“Needless to say I’m very proud it because historically speaking Native Americans have really been under it. As many as possible essentially survived a genocide and then were given remnants of their own land. If you actually look at the numbers you can find that Native Americans are typically the lowest on ethnic studies about education, health, and income. I’ll always be extremely proud to be apart of a group that continually has to defy the odds that are set against them.”
Richardson’s next chance to showcase his skills and do his family proud will be tomorrow night when UAB travels to Atlanta to face unbeaten Georgia State before playing a pair of ACC opponents in Clemson and Wake Forest. Kickoff vs. GSU is set for 4 PM CT.