On a perfect October fall night in Durham, North Carolina, Davius Richard couldn’t have been more symbiotic.
Two weeks after having his worst game of the season in a 48-18 loss at Campbell where he threw two rare interceptions that knocked North Carolina Central out of the FCS Top 25 rankings, Richard — the cerebral leader of the Eagles offense — was in the zone.
He accounted for six touchdowns — throwing four and rushing for another pair of scores — in a 59-20 win over Morgan State last Thursday in front of a nationally televised primetime audience.
During the outing, Richard displayed why he’s been the best dual-threat quarterback in HBCU football.
On the Eagles’ first TD drive of the night, he fired a rocket up the seam to wide receiver E.J. Hicks for a 31-yard strike. Two offensive possessions later, Richard — stationed in the shotgun — took the snap and sprinted right before he was immediately surrounded by four Morgan State defenders.
The 6-foot-3, 215 quarterback spun out of a tackle, cut back left and galloped 42 yards for one of his MEAC-leading eighth rushing TD of the season.
On a team that does not feature a litany of heralded stars, ‘Pee-Wee’ — a nickname for Richard — stands above the rest.
“We don’t have star power like Lebron or Kobe,” said NC Central coach Trei Oliver. “We do have ‘Pee-Wee’ and he’s pretty good.”
Asked by HBCU Sports where that dream performance ranked among those during his amateur career, Richard couldn’t recall one. For him, it was admittedly “another day at the office.”
“It felt like another practice or another Saturday except it was on a Thursday,” he said.
Richard used his voice and will to change football trajectory
And through the first six games of the 2023 season, all Richard has done was put in yeoman’s work, throwing for 1,253 yards on 7.9 yards per toss to go along with 13 TDs. He is currently on pace to exceed career highs in completion percentage, total touchdowns and quarterback rating.
Not bad for a quarterback who was once running the third team as a junior on the varsity squad at Glades Central High School in Belle Glade, Florida.
It was at Glades Central where the tall, skinny quarterback — desiring to play on the belief that he was better than the signal-callers ahead of him — requested a shot to start on a team that was underperforming.
“I just got tired of being third string and pulled my quarterback coach aside and asked him what I had to do to get some playing time or get a chance,” Richard recalled.
After getting the blunt answer, Richard was instructed to address his concerns with the head coach Jessie Hester.
“I kinda hesitated. I was like I don’t know if I could do that,” he said. “I asked him what he needed to see and it paid off from there.”
After being inserted into the lineup, Richard was later named Palm Beach Area Offensive Player of the Year, passing for 3,274 yards and 29 touchdowns as a senior en route to leading the Raiders to a 9-4 records trip to the Florida regional finals.
“Once we put him out there, everything else speaks for itself,” Hester said then.
Working his way up the depth chart again
Despite putting up gaudy numbers in only one full season as a starter, the college scholarship offers — at least from Division I schools — didn’t exactly pour in.
Richard said only a few Division II, Division III and NAIA schools showed interest before NC Central joined the fray.
After committing to NC Central, Richard — once again — found himself — near the bottom of the depth chart in the Eagles quarterback room.
And again, just like the experience at Glades Central, Richard rapidly worked his way into a starting role through a combination of injury and roster attrition.
In his first home start in 2019, against Elizabeth City State in place of an injured Micah Zander, Richard introduced himself by completing 17 of 24 passes for 208 yards and three touchdowns. In that season, Richard started 10 of 11 games completing 51 percent of his passes for 2,020 yards and 12 touchdowns.
As a sophomore, Richard continued to progress in a season in which he ranked second in the MEAC with 2,496 yards of total offense and was voted All-MEAC Second Team.
‘Do you want to get some throws in?’
The maturation is borne by the work Richard put in over multiple offseasons. And by work that meant gathering with wide receivers at all sorts of hours of the day and night and completing route after route until synergy developed.
“Sometimes I would be just chillin’ and get a last-minute thought and send a (text) message to meet me on the field in 10 minutes,” said Richard. “I’ve been hit up by my wide receivers at like 9 o’clock at night or even almost 11 (p.m.) asking, ‘Do you want to get some throws in?’
“I would be like, ‘Bro it’s almost 11 o’clock.’ But I didn’t have anything to do other than workout.”
And all those nights on the practice field — and even in empty parking lots — resulted in unique chemistry that has the NC Central offense humming, averaging 41.7 points per game, which ranks fifth in the FCS.
NC Central — arguably the second-best team in Black college football behind Jackson State at this point after getting off to a 5-1 start — has aspirations of winning the MEAC and advancing to the Celebration Bowl in Atlanta come mid-December.
How far the Eagles go will rest on the right shoulder and legs of the kid who took the long road to the apex where he currently sits.
“That’s every year if you’re playing football, to be honest,” Richard said about always maintaining high expectations. “We said the same thing last year and fell short. We’re just going to take it one day at a time and try to win the day.”