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How Anthony Richardson learned to balance giving himself grace and striving for greatness

After years of trying to please those around him, Richardson is learning to put himself first - making him better both on and off the field.

Richardson Mental

Of the many valuable lessons that Anthony Richardson learned as a kid, one that stuck with him the most is the importance of working hard for what you want.

To be able to support Anthony and his younger brother Corey, his mother LaShawnda Lane worked multiple jobs, sometimes simultaneously.

"What didn't she do?" Richardson asked. "She started delivering mail, she used to work at Taco Bell, she used to work for the state taking care of patients, she used to drive city buses around. She used to volunteer at our schools, she used to help out with our football teams, just anything she could do to make money so she could provide for us because she knew all the dreams and aspirations, we had for ourselves and everything she wanted for us. She was trying to make sure she did her part in supporting us."

Seeing the sacrifices she made for the family's benefit, that intense work ethic was quickly picked up by her eldest son.

"Just seeing her, especially throughout middle school, her not really being in the house, it showed me how bad she wanted to support us," Richardson said. "I would only see her maybe an hour or two throughout the day because she would be coming home, changing clothes and just going back out the house to catch the bus to go to a different spot. It was just me and my brother at the house and I had to find a way to feed him and make sure he was good.

"Just seeing how hard she was grinding, I feel like it's a disservice to her if I don't put that same effort in anything because she did a lot for me to even get to this point. So, if I don't grind myself, that's like a slap in the face to her."

However, as Richardson would come to learn, being overly dedicated to one's craft could become a double-edged sword.

Growing up in Gainesville and eventually playing for the University of Florida, all eyes were on Richardson as Gator fans looked to him to help restore the glory days of the 2000s.

"There was a lot of pressure not only from people in Gainesville but just Gator fans in general because they always want the best," Richardson said. "Especially, when you're wearing number 15 and playing quarterback. Growing up in Gainesville, everybody expects so much from you, but sometimes I fell into the pressure because I wanted to be perfect for them. But I had to learn that I can't be perfect.

"But it also taught me about the impact that I have on people. Just going to different schools, talking to kids and they're like, 'You play for the Gators? You're a quarterback? Why'd you throw an interception that game?' Just talking to them, having an impact and just chilling with them showed me that it is bigger than just playing football for UF [University of Florida]."

While the recognition was flattering, Richardson admitted that at times it felt like he was putting the wants and needs of Gators' fans above his own.

"It's like, 'Okay. All these people are supporting me, so I have to make them proud and I have to play good for them.'" Richardson said. "And I was putting myself at the bottom of the list because I know every time I step on the field, I'm happy. But I wasn't making myself happy by playing a game, it was just me stepping on the field and being there. Now I know, I have to make myself happy first because at the end of the day, if I'm not happy then it doesn't really matter."

A turning point for Richardson came last September when his Gators hosted the Kentucky Wildcats in a highly anticipated matchup.

"Will Levis was their quarterback at the time, and I was so excited, so pumped because two highly exciting quarterbacks were getting ready to play in front of all these NFL scouts," Richardson said. "And that's when it hit me that, 'I have to play good this game.' You know, everybody's talking about him and him getting drafted. All these scouts are coming to the game and I just had a decent game against Utah. So, I told myself, 'I had to play perfect. I had to play good.' I didn't play up to the standard that anybody wanted me to play to. So, that's when all the pressure started to settle on me."

After that game, someone close to Richardson suggested he find someone who he could open up to about the burdens of being under the spotlight.

Though it took some coaxing, he eventually connected with mental coach Bret Ledbetter a couple weeks later.

Now after almost a year working together, Richardson said he has seen major changes in who he is on and off the field.

"I've seen the difference in myself and my play," Richardson said. "I wasn't focused on trying to please anybody. I was just living in the moment and having fun. It taught me a lot about myself.

"When I started working with my mental coach, that's when I started to understand why I was playing football. I thought I was playing to make everybody else happy. But once I started talking to him, it opened my eyes to how much I enjoyed playing football instead of trying to please everybody and make everybody else proud. I made myself proud first."

That mental shift not only helped him through his final season at Florida but has made it easier to remain even-keeled since coming into the NFL.

A prime example of this was the Colts Week 1 preseason game against the Buffalo Bills.

Richardson threw an interception on the opening drive and rather than berate himself, he was able to let the mistake go and move on.

"In the past, I would just dwell on it like, 'Dang, how did I throw that interception?" Richardson said. "I know I'm better than that.' But now, I'm like, 'It's a part of the game.' If I throw an interception, go out there and try to score a touchdown."

Over Richardson's next two possessions, he led two drives that crossed midfield, one of which was an 83-yard drive that was highlighted by a 20-yard pass to tight end Kylen Granson.

So, with Richardson's rookie year officially getting underway this Sunday, he hopes to continue to balance pushing himself to be great and giving himself grace when inevitable miscues do occur.

"It's a happy medium for me," Richardson said. "Sometimes, I give myself grace and sometimes I don't. It's just a matter of me wanting to be the best version of myself. But I think I need that to push myself and not get complacent. I could be complacent and say, 'Oh, I'm in the NFL now. I made it.' That's not the case, I haven't done anything yet. I need to establish myself in this league and on this team. Just push us to get victories."

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