It is not uncommon for Demani Richardson to leave those in the bleachers in awe of his athletic achievements.
As a four-star football recruit, the Waxahachie senior has, after all, already guaranteed himself a bright future on Saturdays in College Station as soon as the coming fall.
But his latest feat should serve as a reminder for the entire community on exactly what it means to honor one's commitment to a team, city and self.
Richardson checked in for the first time this basketball season in front of his home crowd with 4:43 to play in the first quarter of the Runnin' Indians game against South Grand Prairie on Friday. He was greeted by a smattering of applause and a standing ovation from longtime Waxahachie ISD administrator and since semi-unretired district substitute, David Nix.
The entrance marked the first time for Richardson to don a green-and-white jersey during a competition in his hometown since Sept. 14, 2018, a home football game against Flower Mound Marcus. He suffered a season-ending knee injury the following week early in the first half of a road tilt against DeSoto.
Friday was not, however, his first appearance at an Indian football or Runnin’ Indian basketball game. In fact, he hasn’t missed a single one post-injury — even going so far as to be rolled onto the Waxahachie sideline in a wheelchair just a few hours removed from the successful surgery to repair the meniscus in his left knee.
“If I don’t have a real reason not to be there, then I need to be there," Richardson explained after the Runnin' Indians game on Friday night. "After the surgery, I wasn’t down or anything, so I felt like I should be there and I wanted to watch my team play.”
He added, “I felt like they needed me, just with my presence I could help them to be better and encourage them.”
And it's that quality that separates Richardson from most his age. Or, really, distances him from an ordinary individual, regardless of age.
He has proven a dozen times over to be the ultimate team-first student-athlete, as he was often easily visible cheering along with the successes of his teammates or helping to uplift others with words of encouragement.
“I grew up not being all about me but to be part of a team and not be selfish," Richardson said when asked what propelled him to attend each and every game over the past four months. "I guess it was my family who helped with that but I just hate the way people are selfish. I hate selfish people.”
During his return to the court last Tuesday in a road win against Mansfield Summit, Richardson scored 12 points on 6-of-6 shooting while accounting for three assists and three steals.
He then scored eight points Friday night against South Grand Prairie and, more importantly, added a team-high seven steals. His athleticism in the midcourt last season helped the Runnin' Indians establish the toughest full-court press in a district with four state-ranked teams and one eventual state tournament qualifier.
The return to action was not made lightly, either. Richardson admitted he was a little nervous to take the court and test out his surgically repaired knee Tuesday night.
“I was scared, but I prayed before the game and I have my faith in God," he said. "Our trainer, EJ [Hairston], helped me work it out, so I believed that my knee was good. I was scared a little bit, but I prayed and had faith that it would be OK.”
But what truly puts Richardson into a different class of leader is that he has very little to gain by stepping out onto the court for the Runnin' Indians, who currently sit outside of the District 7-6A playoff picture. He does, however, have quite a bit on the line.
See, Richardson signed a National Letter of Intent to play football at Texas A&M University on Dec. 19. As a safety for the Indians defense, the four-star recruit as labeled by Rivals, ESPN and 247Sports recorded 72 tackles during his sophomore and junior seasons. He also rushed 22 times for 232 yards and three touchdowns during his senior season after accounting for 44 carries for 519 yards and seven scores the season before.
Richardson is also ranked No. 43 (247Sports), No 90 (Rivals) and No. 136 (ESPN) nationally in the class of 2019. He is the third-best safety in the nation, according to 247Sports. Both ESPN and Rivals rank Richardson as the 7th best safety in the country.
He was an Associated Press All-State honorable mention following his junior season for the Indian and had an opportunity to participate in the 2019 U.S. Army All-American Bowl in San Antonio but sat out of the game while finishing his recovery.
With that list of accolades and a concrete future wearing Aggie maroon on Saturdays just a couple of months away, it would be completely understandable for the high school senior to forgo athletics in the spring and choose to coast into College Station in the fall.
But not Richardson. He still has teammates to support and a community to make proud.
“I feel like this team really needs me, so I just want to give it my all and be a part of it and it’s a part of something that I like doing so why not?”