While raucous celebrations were due for Miami’s huge comeback win over FSU, the ecstatic feeling of beating your rival immediately fell back to earth once news of Ahmmon Richards hit. Neck injury. Career ending. It was all too familiar for The U family, after CB Malek retired following a neck injury in 2017’s Orange Bowl.
Richards’ career has been a frustrating one for the outside observer, showcasing his playmaking ability as Brad Kaaya’s top target in his 2016 true freshman year. He dominated at a level surpassing his age, and as we all know by now, broke Michael Irvin’s true freshman receiving record with 49 receptions, 934 yards and three TDs.
Ahmmon Richards originally joined Miami as a four star receiver from West Palm Beach, the 27th ranked receiver in the Nation and 147th player overall, according to 24/7 Sports. At 6’1” and 192, Richards had the size and speed combination to be the next great Miami receiver. He proved as much right away.
Number 82 made his name known in his, and Mark Richt’s, very first game with Miami, scoring a touchdown against Florida A&M. But it would take a couple more weeks before he asserted himself as a legit weapon, catching four passes for 142 yards in a rout of the mouthy Appalachian State Mountaineers. Richards’ speed was far too great for the Sun Belt CBs to keep up with, repeatedly burning them for huge gains.
Richards’ 2016 slowed down, a cool middle of the season as the freshman found his footing in ACC play. He still made plays, averaging almost 20 yards per reception, but was never a focal point of the offense until late in the season.
As Miami began to hit the downslope of 2016 conference play, Richards’ was heating up, burning Pittsburgh for 144 yards on eight catches and following it up with 100 more yards on just three receptions against UVA. His one handed grab on the goalline against Pitt was only bested by his absurd catch and run, 77-yard touchdown to seal the game versus the Hoos.
The following week, the freshman accounted for 117 yards on nine receptions against NC State, helping lead Miami to a well-fought victory over their Atlantic division opponent. Perhaps what sticks out in most Canes’ fans minds as his signature performance was the bowl game. Facing off with a West Virginia team that was ranked and had an NFL prospect at cornerback, Big12 interception leader Rasul Douglass, Richards’ had a tall task in front of him.
But even as underdogs, the Canes rose to the challenge, their offensive skill players led by Richards. Even though he only caught three passes, each reception had a huge impact for the Miami offense, racking up 68 yards. The most impressive of his receptions, and maybe his defining play as a Cane, came on a short pass, taking a five yard curl and turning it into a 51 yard catch and run, weaving through the WVU defense, picking up blocks, and opening the scoring floodgates for Miami with the Canes’ first touchdown.
Expectations for Richards were massive following his break-through 2016 and, due to injuries, he was never able to fully live up to them. While likely never fully healthy last season, AR82 still had flashes of his potential, going 3-106-1 in his first game, a road win over Duke. Richards’ was unable to go over 100 yards in a game for the rest of the season and didn’t catch another TD until mid-November. Richards was unable to help the Canes’ in some of their biggest games last season; Notre Dame, Clemson and Wisconsin. Only speculators can guess how the Miami offense would’ve fared with no. 82 in those games.
In 2018, Richards’ lasted all of 18 snaps, catching one pass for nine yards before his Miami career was ended too soon. With Jeff Thomas blossoming in his absence, it’s crushing to think how much more potent the weapons for Perry could be this season if Richards’ wasn’t hurt. Most affecting is that a young man is robbed of his God-given talent and an opportunity to make millions of dollars in the NFL. I know I speak for all of us when I say we send our prayers to Richards’ and his family and hope his life is filled with success going forward.
AR82, despite having only played 21 games here, had the potential of becoming a legendary wide receiver in a Miami program that is filled with them. And while he will be unable to continue playing football, his records from his historic freshman year will live on forever.