AUBURN, Ala. — Senior linebacker Ashton Richardson has been named a finalist for the Rhodes Scholarship, one of the oldest international fellowships available to college students to complete graduate work at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom.
“I was definitely overjoyed about it,” Richardson said. “Going into this whole process, I didn’t really understand how big of a deal it was. But as I learned more about it, I realized this really is a life-changing thing.”
A famous past Rhodes Scholarship winner was former Florida State safety Myron Rolle, who was drafted in the sixth round of the 2010 NFL Draft after spending the 2009-10 academic year at Oxford.
“Actually, I learned a great bit about him. He’s been a great inspiration for me going through this process,” Richardson said. “I also remember being in high school watching the way he competed on the film, so I admired him as an athlete as well as an academia.”
Richardson is an Honors College student and animal sciences major (pre-veterinary medicine) in the College of Agriculture, with a cumulative grade-point average of 3.94. A three-time SEC Academic Honor Roll member, he was named a semifinalist for the National Football Foundation Campbell Trophy earlier this year.
“To Auburn, Ashton is a true ‘scholar-athlete,'” animal sciences professor Dale Coleman said. “But to the world, Ashton is so much more — a true gentleman and a true humanitarian.”
Growing up helping his father raise quarter-horses, Richardson wants to become an equine surgeon.
“I am an aspiring veterinarian, but studying at Oxford would be a tremendous opportunity to pursue my dream of using my education to give back,” Richardson said. “These scholarships are set up to prepare individuals to ‘fight the world’s fight.'”
The interview is in Birmingham Nov. 16-17, meaning Richardson might not be available for the Alabama A&M game depending on timing. A New Orleans native, Richardson could have interviewed in his home state, but wanted to give himself a chance to be available for Auburn’s weekend game.
“The majority of my life will be after football. So if anyone can take anything from my journey, I would want them to see that your life after football is still very important,” Richardson said. “While you’re here, we should take advantage of all the resources we have to promote that, to promote our life after football.”
Richardson has played in 32 career games, registering 13 tackles. He walked on to the Tigers as a freshman and was put on scholarship before his junior season.
Coach Gene Chizik opened Tuesday’s news conference by congratulating Richardson on “a great honor.”
“That is an unbelievable accomplishment for a great young man,” Chizik said. “We wish him well on that, and we hope he wins the opportunity. That’s great for him.”
Another week, another off-field distraction.
USA Today’s Danny Sheridan made some remarks to AL.com on Monday, indicating that two Auburn assistant coaches have been pulled from recruiting on the road during an NCAA investigation.
When asked about it, Chizik reiterated his standard approach.
“I don’t have time for all of that,” Chizik said. “I’ve got one direct focus: that is my team and my players. That has nothing to do with us winning. Whoever said what has nothing to do with anything, so I am not getting into any of that stuff.”
Take the ball?
Chizik was asked about his rationale for deferring to the second half against Texas A&M after winning the coin flip — giving the football immediately to Johnny Manziel and the Aggies’ high-octane offense. Auburn’s defense has struggled mightily on opening drives this year.
“Do you think we should do that? It might help, right?” Chizik said, with a smile. “We have actually had that very discussion. To be honest with you, I like to be on defense first traditionally, all things being equal … it really hasn’t quite panned out like we expected it to, so we’ve thought about that.”
From the infirmary
Cornerback Chris Davis suffered a concussion “a couple of weeks ago,” Chizik said. His status is day-to-day.