Drew Richmond, an offensive tackle at Tennessee, has spent the past few months mentoring middle school students at the Emerald Academy in Knoxville. Today he’s announcing where he’ll be transferring to play his final year of college football. He wanted to deliver the news personally to the kids he worked with. Below is the message he read to them today.
I remember sitting in a team meeting my freshman year at Tennessee, when a speaker began his presentation with a quote that went, “The two most important days of your life are the day you were born and the day you find out why.”
I’ve thought about that quote a lot, especially the past few weeks.
Growing up, we develop our own limitless flow of imagination. And it’s those adventurous and imaginative thoughts that shape our vision, which manifests itself as a sense of purpose.
The last four years at Tennessee, I’ve developed a much better understanding of what my purpose is — and I know it’s bigger than football.
Coming out of high school, I was considered one of the top prospects in the country. A lot of people placed high expectations on me. But when I got to college, those accolades didn’t mean anything. They didn’t provide me a sense of direction. Instead, it was the challenges and the difficult moments that brought me a step closer to understanding my reason for being here.
I can recall being promised that I’d start my freshman year. When that didn’t happen, I felt consumed by anger and frustration. Every game, win or lose, I’d check Twitter hoping for validation, but a lot of the time I just internalized negativity instead. For my first few years at Tennessee, I was always searching for approval that didn’t come from myself but from the outside. If football wasn’t going well — if I didn’t have that — I didn’t know what else I had.
For a while, I let a lot of outside factors cloud my vision for the future. And that got in the way of finding my true purpose. And it wasn’t until I came here and met all of you that I learned that neither my value nor my purpose was tied to how I played in a game.
Becoming a mentor here and being part of y’all’s lives has been the highlight of my college career. Whether it was spending time coaching a few of y’all, making jokes or just talking through ideas and challenges, I made connections here that really impacted me.
I’ve accomplished everything I set out to do at Tennessee. I was a three-year starter and I got my degree, and I’m leaving here with the ability and opportunity to continue playing football at a high level.
But in order to do that, I have to say goodbye to all of you. And that’s really hard for me.
Before I do, I want to thank all of you. Thank you for letting me into your lives. Thank you for all the jokes. And thank you for helping me realize my true purpose: to one day start a school that will help kids just like you.
I want to work with kids on all the same things that we spoke about during my time here. I want to teach them about how haters can distract and cloud your vision. I want to let them know that when obstacles come in life, they have to dodge them and keep their heads up. And finally, I want to provide the kind of support system for them that has helped me get to this point.
Without my friends and family, my journey would have been impossible. I’d run out of time if I were to name all of y’all, but each of you hearing this knows the effect you have had on my life. I’m grateful to all of you.
Although I’m going to miss coming here and being with y’all, I have work to do elsewhere. But never forget, wherever I go, you guys are always going to be part of me. Y’all changed my outlook and direction.
This next step in my journey will help me find another piece of the puzzle — and to keep fulfilling my ultimate purpose. Next year, I will earn my masters degree in social entrepreneurship and play football at the University of Southern California.