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Richardson's touchdown run in BCS title game caps illustrious career

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NEW ORLEANS -- When you grow up like Trent Richardson, you have dreams. Big dreams. But those dreams aren't confined to one night, one game, or even one season. When you have two little girls who are counting on you for their very future, you take the long view of life.

But as moments go, it was hard to beat Richardson's 34-yard touchdown run with 4:36 left, which served as the perfect exclamation point for No. 2 Alabama's 21-0 victory against No. 1 LSU in the BCS championship game.

"Next to my daughters being born, this is the best moment of my life," said Richardson, who finished with 96 yards on 20 carries and broke Mark Ingram's single-season rushing record at Alabama. "No matter how long I get to play football, I will always remember this team and this night. This was just the best in the world."

Richardson would not be the offensive MVP of this game. That honor would go to quarterback AJ McCarron, who was simply magnificent, completing 23 of 34 passes for 234 yards against the nation's No. 2 defense.

"No. 3 [Richardson] has been our workhorse all year long," McCarron said. "It was time for the rest of us to step up and carry the load."

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Richardson, a junior, said he did not have to be the star in what will surely be his last college game. After celebrating with his teammates on the floor of the Superdome as they hoisted the crystal football, he walked out of here with a lot of memories:

 His 96 yards gave him 1,679 on the season, breaking the school record of 1,658 set by Mark Ingram in 2009, his Heisman Trophy season.

 Richardson finished this season with 21 rushing touchdowns, the most by a running back in the history of the SEC. He finishes second in rushing touchdowns in a season to Florida quarterback Tim Tebow, who had 23.

 He was the first Alabama player to ever win the Doak Walker Award, which goes to the nation's best running back.

 He was the SEC Offensive Player of the Year in 2011.

 He finished third for the Heisman Trophy behind Robert Griffin III and Andrew Luck.

 As a freshman, he ran for over 100 yards in the BCS National Championship Game against Texas. Ingram won the offensive MVP in that game, but Richardson served notice he would be a star.

 He posted six consecutive games over 100 yards and a total of nine during an unforgettable 2011. His highlight reel from this season included a 76-yard scoring run against Ole Miss that had defenders gasping and fans speechless.

 He ends his career with only one fumble in 636 touches. He did not have a fumble in his final 572 touches as a college football player.

"I promise you, it was nothing I did that make Trent a great player," said offensive coordinator Jim McElwain, who now moves on to become the head coach at Colorado State. "He's talented. He works at it. I was honored and lucky to be his coach."

Richardson won't make his announcement until he gets back to Tuscaloosa, because that is the way coach Nick Saban likes to handle these kinds of things. But there is really no doubt the time has come for Trent Richardson to turn the page.

He is an elite running back, and a powerfully built one at that. He is a freak in the weight room. He works at his craft and has gotten better every single day he has been at Alabama. He has earned the respect and admiration of his teammates because he showed up for work and never acted like a prima donna.

"What more can you say about the guy?" offensive tackle Barrett Jones said. "He is one of the great running backs in Alabama history. There is simply no argument about that."

But Trent Richardson will turn 22 years old on July 10. A running back's career has a finite number of carries. It is now time to take care of Elevera, 3, and Taliya, 5, who came along when he was only a teenager. It is time to start giving back to the aunts, uncles, brothers, grandmothers, and other relatives who put parts of their lives on hold to serve as his support group while he went after his dream.

"My girls were watching tonight, and they wanted to see their daddy do something special," Richardson said. "There are so many people who have helped me, and I can't possibly pay them back. There are so many people at Alabama who believed in me. I can't imagine playing for any other team or wearing any other uniform."

He was raised without a father on the tough streets of Pensacola. He was a superstar recruit who played at the same high school (Escambia) as Emmitt Smith, who is nothing less than an idol to Richardson. Richardson will probably always be the second greatest player to come out of Escambia. Smith, after all, is the NFL's all-time leading rusher.

He will not be Alabama's all-time rusher. That record belongs to Shaun Alexander with 3,565 career yards. He will not be Alabama's second Heisman Trophy winner (Mark Ingram was the first).

But he will head to the NFL with two BCS championship rings. He will be part of three teams at Alabama that won 36 games. And when Alabama fans speak of their greatest running backs, his name will always come up. They will speak of him fondly and remember the 34-yard touchdown run and the electricity that rippled through the building. In short, Trent Richardson earned a piece of immortality Monday night. And that's worth more than a boatload of MVP trophies.

When Trent Richardson was in the seventh grade, he was late turning in a homework assignment. A teacher, who knew his potential, chastised him for doing less than his best. "You're not going to be nothing," she said.

That teacher was right. Trent Richardson turned out to be something special. That is why he was smiling when the left the floor of the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. And that's why the entire Crimson Tide Nation was smiling with him.

Watch The Tony Barnhart Show at 9 p.m. Thursday on the CBS Sports Network.


Tony Barnhart is in his fifth season as a contributor to CBSSports.com. He is a college football analyst for CBS Sports and The CBS Sports Network. Prior to joining CBS he was the national college football writer for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution for 24 years. He has written five books on college football.
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