Richardson remains positive after turbulent first year
When Brian Richardson became the new head coach at his alma mater, he never envisioned enduring an opening season like he had in 2016.
On the field, his Donaldsonville squad was bitten by the injury job, and off the field, Richardson became one of the thousands of victims affected by the catastrophic August flood.
Like most houses in East Baton Rouge’s Millerville area, Richardson’s home was submerged by the flood waters. Not only did his house take on five feet of water, but he also lost two vehicles.
Despite facing so much strife in such a short period time, Richardson has remained upbeat. He continues to see positives in the midst of so many negatives.
He thinks the flood only brought his team closer together. It also made his relationship with the Donaldsonville community even stronger.
When he was forced to evacuate his new home, he sought shelter back in his old stomping grounds.
“The good thing for me was that I was able to go back to the Donaldsonville community. They embraced me, and that made things a lot easier because I was able to stay focused on football and the team and get my mind off of everything going on with my house and the flood,” Richardson said.
Still, even with the support of his community, it was a daunting task for him. At the same time he was trying to regroup from the flood, he was on the cusp of his first season as a head coach.
“It was challenging. At one point, we didn’t even know if we were going to have a jamboree,” Richardson said. “Our fall scrimmage got cancelled, and we didn’t get much practice time. We really didn’t know what was going to happen with the season. Everything was at a standstill. It was a very hectic time, but we tried to keep the kids calm.
“Everything that was happening with the flood, it helped put things into perspective for them. They were able to see that there are a lot of things out there more important than football. There were people that lost their lives in this flood.”
The bond between Richardson and his players grew even stronger when they were there to help him gut his home in the aftermath of the flood.
“There are no words to express how appreciative I was of them helping out. I truly believe that it all made us a better a team. It made us a better family,” Richardson said. “When the kids came to my house and saw my neighborhood and saw all of the aftermath, it really brought them to reality and brought them a new perspective on life.”
But his players didn’t just help him in the rebuilding process. They helped the parents of one of their teachers—who also had their home drowned by five feet of water. When they finished there, there were out helping neighbors.
“I was so proud of them,” Richardson said. “No one asked them to do that. They came to help me out at my house, and while they were there, they saw a lady across the street that needed some help, so they went over there and helped her on their own. This all really molded these young men and pointed them in the right direction. I was a proud coach, a proud poppa, a proud member of Ascension.”
When the season did begin, Donaldsonville saw their share of challenges on the field.
Their schedule contained the likes of eight playoff teams, and the Tigers were forced to face many of those squads at less than 100 percent.
Injuries plagued Donaldsonville in 2016. In one game alone, they were missing their starting quarterback, running back, their top receiver and one of their top linebackers.
In the face of all this adversity, the Tigers improved their win total from last season and returned to the playoffs.
Only losing two seniors, Richardson is very optimistic about the future.
“I feel great about the season and the direction that we’re headed as a program,” Richardson said. “I think we got a lot better, and we pulled together. We were able to make the playoffs despite all of the early-season challenges. All that stuff really helped us mature. It’s something we can build on.”
There are also rays of hope for Richardson personally.
He said that his home is coming along well. Contractors are lined up, and it shouldn’t bee long before he’ll be able to return.
In the meantime, Richardson is right at home in Donaldsonville.