Rookies Trent Richardson of the Cleveland Browns and Dre Kirkpatrick of the Cincinnati Bengals may be new to the Battle of Ohio, but they go way back with each other.
As two of the top high school recruits in the country, Richardson and Kirkpatrick struck up a friendship that enabled Nick Saban to recruit them as a package deal at Alabama, where they led the Crimson Tide to a pair of national championships.
“Dre’s one of my best friends,” Richardson said. “Dre was the reason we went to Alabama together. It was either going to be there or LSU or wherever. We went on all of our official visits together. Wherever we went, whichever one signed first, that’s the one we were going to go to.”
The two entered the NFL together in April when the Browns made Richardson the first running back drafted with the No. 3 overall pick, while Kirkpatrick became the third cornerback selected when the Bengals took him 17th. And they’ve stayed in touch since, sharing tales of single fatherhood and lending each other support as both players have had to battle injuries early in their NFL careers.
“That’s how our bond is,” Richardson said. “That’s the tradition we have at Alabama. We’re a family. We’re still are a family. Any time we need words of inspiration or something like that, we go to each other and talk about stuff.”
Richardson, who overcame a knee injury to carry the ball 19 times for 39 yards last week in his NFL debut, is known as a strong, bruising runner. But Kirkpatrick offers a different scouting report.
“He’s just a big kid,” Kirkpatrick said. “Everybody looks at him from the physical standpoint, thinking he’s all muscular and physical, but he’s soft. He’s just a big teddy bear. He’s laid back. He loves his kids (two daughters, ages 4 and 6).”
Unfortunately for Kirkpatrick, the reunion with his friend will be limited to pregame handshakes because he is still trying to work his way back from the knee injury he suffered prior to the start of training camp.
“He’s doing everything he can to get back on the field,” Richardson said. “There’s going to be a second time for us to play each other. It’s something I’m already looking forward to. I hope he’s going to be ready.”
The more immediate concern for Richardson is building on his Week 1 performance and trying to help the Browns get their first win.
“Last week’s game, I think it went pretty good as far as getting back into game mode and just jumping out there in the fire,” he said. “Coach (Pat Shurmur) played me more than what I expected I was going to play. The overall experience, I loved it, and I just can’t wait to get better every week. This week I know is going to be a much better week for us.”
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