They did everything together. They ate, hung out and went to high school together. When it came time to choose where to play college football, David Richard and Brandon Massey chose Michigan State.
Richard and Massey, Hazelwood East graduates, decided to transfer in the spring when they chose to return home to Missouri. With the transfer, Richard and Massey got everything they wanted, almost.
They went home, they saw their family and friends and most of all they felt comfortable again. The chance to play and make an immediate impact for the Tigers was the only thing missing.
Transfer rules dictate that a Division I-A football player who transfers sit out a year. Richard and Massey have been at MU since the summer and redshirted this season.
It hasn’t been easy for the former Spartans. Both played their freshman seasons. Richard led Michigan State in rushing with 654 yards on 133 carries and added five touchdowns. A defensive back, Massey played in seven games. Because neither player used their redshirt in 2002, Richard and Massey have three years of eligibility left.
Although the remaining eligibility is a positive for Richard and Massey, they have had to deal with something they can’t remember having to do, watch their teammates play Saturdays.
With each passing game, Richard and Massey have sat idly by and watched Missouri experience all-time highs such as the Nebraska win and disappointing lows such as the loss to Kansas.
Richard can’t help but get emotional about the thought of being there for MU’s historic win against the Cornhuskers.
“I knew going into that week what a rivalry it was,” Richard said. “It didn’t hit me until I ran out of that tunnel and I saw the guys warming up. I got a little teary-eyed by the way the team came together in front of our home fans.”
The redshirt year has been a little more difficult for Richard. He dislocated his right shoulder in the state championship game his senior year of high school and again in 2002 against Michigan. The injury bothered him in preseason practice.
The coaching staff and Richard decided he should have surgery on it at the beginning of September. Richard said he is recovering from it and expects to be ready to play in spring practice.
In the meantime, Richard and Massey spend a lot of time lifting weights and learning their systems. They lift weights three days a week as opposed to the two-day maintenance lifting of the active players.
While Richard continues his rehabilitation from surgery, Massey has worked hard to take advantage of his opportunity to work with the scout team every week. That chance allows Massey to face the Tigers’ best receivers in practice and put his newfound knowledge of MU’s defensive schemes to the test.
Coach Gary Pinkel said the pair is doing a good job of developing physically and mentally.
“I think it’s a lot about attitude,” Pinkel said. “David had surgery and is doing really well. Brandon, being on the scout team, we tell him during scout team on every play he can get better or just go through the motions.
“A lot of it is attitude and I think they both have a great attitude.”
While at Hazelwood East, Richard and Massey created havoc for opponents. Richard, a 6-foot-2, 225-pound battering ram, ran past opponents at running back and over them at linebacker. Massey was the shutdown defensive back and big-play receiver.
They became national recruits from one of the Midwest’s best football programs. Richard was an All-American, recruited by most of the nation’s elite programs. Massey was an athletic player with 4.4 speed in the 40-yard dash.
When it came time to choose a college, Missouri was a finalist for both. Richard wasn’t sure he would play tailback, his position of choice, and Massey wanted to join his friend.
It didn’t take them long to realize they had made the wrong decision. Richard and Massey were homesick, and when Michigan State fired Bobby Williams on Nov. 4, it became clear they needed to move on.
Massey said he learned an important lesson from the transferring experience.
“I don’t regret what I did; I mean I had an OK time at Michigan State,” Massey said. “But it is just so much better here. I would say that in-state kids should take a closer look at their home-state school. There are a lot of advantages to staying in the state and going to school.”
Because of NCAA rules, Richard and Massey couldn’t contact Pinkel to let him know of their interest. Instead, they called Missouri cornerback A.J. Kincade, whom they have known since peewee football and played against in high school when Kincade attended rival Hazelwood Central.
Kincade acted as the go-between for the players and Pinkel, letting the coaching staff know of their interest in transferring. Richard made his transfer official Feb. 18 and Massey followed in late April.
Richard arrived at the beginning of summer, and Massey on Aug. 9 after his transcript arrived, clearing him to play.
Massey lives with Kincade, who said both players have done well in their new surroundings.
“They both have great patience,” Kincade said. “They adjusted very well and I would say they are pure Tigers already. They fit in with all of the guys really well.”
When Massey and Richard aren’t lifting weights, attending classes or learning the Missouri system, they often play the NCAA Football 2004 video game at Massey’s apartment.
Massey always uses his new team, even though he isn’t on this year’s version. He created himself and put his video version on Missouri.
Soon enough, Massey won’t have to worry about creating himself; he and Richard will be in the real thing.