Eugene, Ore. -- "He goes out, he plays his heart out and he leads by example and that's the type of quality of young man we're trying to build here," says South Eugene head football coach Kevin Leonard, emphatically.
South Eugene's Jahi Richardson has blossomed into a leader and captain of Axe football, despite starting to play football just five years ago.
"She just encouraged me there to like...to go try out for the middle school football team," Richardson recalls. "I joined in eighth grade and have been playing ever since."
The one who got him started was his mother, who has raised Jahi as a single parent since he was 4 years old.
"She's supportive," explains Leonard. "She's tough when she needs to be and she understands that he's the oldest brother and he takes that with pride and that's what I'm most proud of."
"I used to be bouncing on her leg and stuff and now I'm towering over her," Richardson jokes. "Every time I bring up anything about football when I come home from school or anything like that she always has a light in her eye. She's always happy to hear anything I have to do with football because she raised me."
In his varsity coach, Kevin Leonard, Richardson has found a mentor to help him as he aims to play at the next level.
"I have a single parent at home, just my mother," says Richardson. "I love her and everything but I never had like a father role model and as I was coming up through high school Coach Leonard has always been there for me always told me he's had my back. And in terms of that, that means a lot."
"I tried to be a positive mentor for him and really I haven't had to try to do much," Leonard mentions. "Maybe some encouragement along the way to tell him to stay on the right path but he's done that and I'm proud to see him go."
With Mom always there to lend support and his siblings there to cheer him on, Jahi Richardson sees it all as a way to change the culture and bring winning back to South Eugene.
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