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NFL

Richardson, Morris renew rivalry in NFL

| Thursday, Dec. 13, 2012, 7:30 p.m.
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Washington Redskins running back Alfred Morris will reunite with Cleveland Browns back Trent Richardson on Sunday. The two rookies grew up playing against each other in Pensacola, Fla. (Photo by Patrick McDermott/Getty Images)

BEREA, Ohio — Trent Richardson remembers Redskins running back Alfred Morris with long hair and one of his teammates stupidly yanking on it before a game.

“He got so hot, and everyone was so scared of him,” Richardson said. “Nobody would touch him. He was a big guy. He was the biggest dude out there.”

Morris, too, can picture Richardson a bigger-than-average kid, years before he started carrying the ball for the Browns.

“He had calves of a grown man,” Morris said.

The two rookies, who began their football careers bashing their way to stardom on sandlots in their hometown of Pensacola, Fla. — a football talent hotbed — took dissimilar paths to the NFL. But they'll cross paths again and renew their rivalry Sunday when the Browns (5-8) host the Redskins (7-6).

Richardson, the No. 3 overall pick in this year's draft, has lived up to projections. He's rushed for 869 yards and matched the team rookie record with nine rushing touchdowns, a mark he shares with Hall of Famer Jim Brown, who caused a controversy when he called Richardson “ordinary” after the Browns selected him.

Richardson has been special.

Morris has been even better for the Redskins.

The sixth-round pick (No. 173 overall) from Florida Atlantic enters this week's game with 1,228 yards and seven scores. Morris is fourth among the league's top rushers, and he's the latest in a long line of young backs to thrive under Redskins coach Mike Shanahan, who had four rookies top 1,000 yards rushing in Denver.

Shanahan's system has helped Morris, but the humble 23-year-old has earned every yard through hard work and dedication — values he developed in Pensacola, also the home of career rushing leader Emmitt Smith.

Morris arrived at Redskins camp driving a 1991 Mazda, and although he can now afford to replace the car with 125,000 miles on the odometer, Morris has no intention of splurging. And when he visits his parents' home, he usually stays on the couch.

“I actually like the couch,” he said. “It's pretty comfortable.”

Morris' success may be surprising to those who didn't see him run over other players for years. Richardson has been watching the 5-foot-10, 218-pounder cause destruction inside the hash marks for most of his life.

“We've always been rivals,” Richardson said. “He was the reason why I never made the (high school) playoffs.”

Morris, who needs 288 yards to surpass Clinton Portis' team single-season rushing record, entered camp with one objective.

“I wasn't guaranteed a spot on this team, so I had to bust my butt in camp,” he said. “My goal was to make the team.”

There were skeptics who doubted Morris could play at the game's highest level. They looked at his size and college and wondered.

They should have talked to Richardson.

“He didn't get that much recognition because of the school he was at,” Richardson said. “They didn't get seen a lot. But Alfred has always been a baller to me.”

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