METAIRIE, La. — For most players on New Orleans’ 90-player roster, the time after morning practice is spent going over the playbook, resting and trying to find ways to get ahead for the afternoon.
For Jay Richardson, the time is spent checking in on JNR & Associates, his insurance brokerage firm in Columbus, Ohio.
What, you don’t think an NFL player has to find ways to earn a living outside of football?
“Fortunately I’ve got a great business partner who works his butt off,” Richardson said, adding, “I just try to make calls and in between practices, make sure everything is going smooth and then it’s back to learning linebacker.”
Richardson began his insurance firm about three years ago when he was struggling to stick in the NFL.
Drafted in the fifth round in 2007 by Rob Ryan and the Oakland Raiders, Richardson lasted until the second week of the 2010 season, when he was waived. Two months later, Seattle picked him up through the end of the 2010 season.
He was out of football in 2011 and in 2012, he went to training camp with the New York Jets, but was released before the season. He didn’t get picked up again until New Orleans grabbed him on Jan. 4.
Maybe in 2007 Richardson figured football would be his big ticket. Seven seasons later, he knows it’s not and is prepared to explain to young teammates that relying solely on football is fool’s gold.
“That’s something I try to be kind of a guiding light for a lot of young guys in a sense that, listen, this ride will end eventually and we’ll all end up being regular Joe’s one day,” Richardson said. “And that’s OK. There’s nothing wrong with that. That’s part of life. You’ve got to love it and find another passion.”
Yet, he’s still recognized around Columbus, where he played football for Ohio State, for his on-field skills.
He was enrolling school employees for insurance in Worthington, Ohio but didn’t tell them he played for the Buckeyes. They figured it out quickly.
“After about the first five minutes, the teachers were buzzing,” Richardson said. “The teachers were like, ‘Did you play at Ohio State?’ I’m like, ‘Yeah.’ They were like, ‘You were drafted by the Raiders. Wait a minute, why are you selling insurance?’ I’m like, ‘Listen. Here’s your benefits plan. Let me lay this out for you guys.’ They were like, ‘No, we want to talk about football.’ I ended up signing autographs and enrolling teachers.”
Still, Richardson could have a shot in letting his partner tend the shop for awhile. Thanks to injuries, the Saints could use a versatile player like Richardson who can play both end and linebacker.
He already has won over his teammates.
“He is extremely hungry so it fits in great here,” safety Roman Harper said. “He is coming out and trying to get better every day. We moved him around a little bit and he has done nothing but make plays.”
Added defensive end Cam Jordan, “He has definitely showed his versatility playing outside linebacker as well as defensive end. I like his versatility. I think it’s very similar to mine except (that) he is a lot bigger.”
In the Saints’ preseason opener, Richardson finished with two tackles and a fumble recovery in just 21 plays.
Richardson doesn’t see his stock as being on the rise. He’s not counting his spot on the roster as real until final cuts.
But he thinks he’s in the right position. After all, he was drafted to Oakland by Ryan, who is now the Saints’ defensive coordinator.
“It feels like the right fit at the right time,” he said. “I played with Rob before. His staff in Oakland drafted me so I’m very familiar with Rob and his scheme. Not to mention a couple of years off, your body is fresh. You feel great. I feel healthy. I’m ready to go. Kind of feel rejuvenated so I got a lot of energy right now.”
And if he doesn’t make it? Well, at least he has another job.
“When you’ve been out of the league for two years, you better find work,” Richardson said. “I don’t care how much money you make, you’ve still got to work.”