Iowa State's Richardson Growing Into Leadership Role

By Rob Gray, Reporter

AMES, Iowa — In order to use his arm, Austen Arnaud first turned to his thumbs.
The former Iowa State quarterback remembers well the informal throwing sessions current Cyclone No. 1 playcaller Sam Richardson's been leading two to three times a week for nearly a month.

The light workouts deepen bonds and provide a players-only platform for building success.

As for the thumbs ...

"That's when I had to go on my unlimited texts plan," said Arnaud, ISU's all-time most accurate passer with a career completion rate of 59.7 percent. "I would send out a mass message to everybody and get it back and have to respond, 'OK, can we do it at this time? Can we do it at that time?' So my texting skills definitely improved."

There's a method to the planning, as Richardson has learned.

The plotted end result — increased camaraderie and sharpened skills for a passing offense that ranked eighth in the Big 12 last season — makes the sometimes early morning pre-fall camp drills well worth the time invested.

"It's tough, but it's kind of something where you get a stern voice and tell them they have to be here, maybe if they don't want to be on a day off at seven in the morning," Richardson said last month. "It's something we've got to do as an offense to get better."

No one's complaining — at least not on that June morning.

There were jokes, highlight reel-worthy throws and grabs, dropped passes and nixed routes.

In short: it was raw, but good; proof of commitment that invariably leads to more highlights and less shortcomings for an offense hoping to help conjure a fourth bowl bid in five years and first winning season since 2009.

"It's probably one of the most important things we do, just to get Sam on the right page with everybody and everybody on the right page with Sam," said tight end Ernst Brun, who caught six touchdown passes last season.

Richardson's growing into his lead organizer role.

He started three games last season, crafted an 8-to-1 touchdown-to-interception ratio, but remains green at rounding up his teammates via texts.

"I had all the guys confused, so some of them weren't very happy," Richardson said of initial organizing attempts.

Smiles came quickly, though, as Brun boasted about — and showed off — his arm strength and Richardson and backup Grant Rohach zipped passes to teammates.What do you think?

These aren't true 7 on 7 sessions (defense is absent), but they function in much the same way, Richardson said.

"Just building camaraderie," he said.

Brun's a big part of that.

"You want to get out here and have fun; you don't want to be uptight about everything," he said. "I probably make more jokes than anybody on the team — freshmen to the coaches upstairs. It's all about having fun and getting to know everybody. Everything in this building or on the field, we have to be together."

Even if that's at 7 a.m. and sandwiched around weight workouts and class work.

"Sam understands every scenario," said receiver Jarvis West, who worked particularly hard at catching waist-level passes — a sticking point last season. "He's very smart. He's smart with play-calling, changing plays, anything you can think of. Sam, he's the guy."

Arnaud — ISU's second most prolific passer all-time (6,777 yards, 42 touchdowns) — sees that, too.

"He's a pretty soft-spoken guy for the most part, but he has leadership capabilities that are second to none," Arnaud said.
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