Weston Richburg drove his old Chevy truck recently from Mesa, Arizona, where he was training, to the Arizona Cardinals facility for a visit with the team. Then he drove home, 10 hours straight to Bushland, Texas — population 130 — where he grew up. There isn’t too much in the way of frills when it comes to Richburg, the blue-collar Colorado State center who just might be the best at his position heading into the draft.
After playing well at the Senior Bowl and testing well at both the NFL combine and his pro day, Richburg has proven that he deserves a chance to play with the big boys. Not long ago, almost no one thought that was possible. He was a fringe college prospect who had to beg college teams to come look at him, and the Rams’ coaches took a leap of faith on a 240-pound offensive linemen who had missed two high school seasons with a torn ACL.
Their gamble was rewarded. After 50 college starts, Richburg has shown the requisite talent and toughness to be considered as early as the second round in May. He took some time to talk to Shutdown Corner about growing up on a farm, “Friday Night Lights,” breaking his snapping hand during a game, listening to metal and being a burrito aficionado.
SDC: Heard you played a little quarterback early in your HS career. Did you want to change positions or were you forced to give it up?
WR: I kind of had to give it up. I played it from the beginning of my football career, which was like second grade, until my freshman year of high school. I was a quarterback, tailback, I played linebacker r… and then my sophomore year in high school, I actually tore my ACL playing linebacker. That actually kept me out for my sophomore and junior years.
That affected my career a lot. I think I was probably 5-9, 180 pounds as a freshman, and coming back as a senior I was 6-3, 240 pounds. They moved me to left tackle. I really didn’t have a choice. I wasn’t upset over it. I was actually really excited just to get back on the field.
SDC: And why did you miss two years for the torn ACL? Were there complications?
WR: My growth plates [in my knee] hadn’t closed, so I had to wait a year to get surgery and then another six months post-surgery time after that.
SDC: Makes sense. You also competed in a lot of track and field, even your first year at CSU. What was your best event?
WR: Yes, I did. I [performed] shot put in the indoor season at CSU. I think shot put was always my best. I like it a lot.
SDC: So what is Bushland, Texas like? I admit, it sounds like a made-up name for a town.
WR: [laughs] Yeah, typical small town. If you’ve ever seen the movie “Friday Night Lights,” it’s very, very comparable to that. All the guys come out for football and we really, really value our football and athletics here. Our stadium will be packed every Friday night. The stands are packed, and people are standing all around the field, too. We really treasure our athletics, especially football, and I think that’s where I gained my passion for football, just being [in Bushland]. I just had those values instilled in me early on.
SDC: So Friday night would be the time to rob the local Food King, eh?
R: Well, back then, there really were no businesses in town. My family owned the only gas station in town. I think maybe we kept it open [during games], but there wouldn’t be many people there. It’s right on the highway, so all the highway people would stop. But everyone else definitely would go to the game.
SDC: Did you grew up on a farm? What kind of farm was it?
WR: Yes, sir. We raised cows, and we still have cows. I showed pigs in middle school through high school. We grew some wheat. We’re mainly involved in cattle and pigs.
SDC: What was the worst chore of them all?
WR: Oh, there were a lot that were bad. I would probably say cleaning out some stalls. We had horses at one time, and those stalls would just … they were awful. I’d have to go in there and clean it up and the mess, it would be a foot thick. I didn’t like that at all. That was probably the worst thing.
SDC: But I would imagine that working on a farm on a daily basis growing up had to instill in you a pretty good work ethic.
WR: Oh yeah, definitely. That has been … being raised the way I was raised has — and the work ethic I got from it — it has been the reason I have gotten as far as I have in football. No question. You have to do a lot of things you don’t want to do, but in the end they are very rewarding.
SDC: You were born in Louisville and grew up in a small town in Texas. So naturally you went to Colorado State. How did that happen?
WR: I was born in Louisville and maybe lived there for two years. We made a quick stop in Kansas City but basically have been in Texas since I was 4 or 5. As for Colorado State, as I said, I was injured those two years and didn’t get to play. And my senior year, I played only one year and no one knew who I was. I mean, I tried. I sent out tapes and tried as hard as I could to get Texas teams to look at me. But my high school coach sent out some stuff to [Colorado State], and pretty much they were one of the only teams to show interest. I went in for a visit and ended up committing then and there.
SDC: Ever made that drive straight through from Bushland to Fort Collins, or vice versa?
WR: Oh, plenty of times. Stopped for gas, but otherwise yes. It’s actually only about seven hours, and it’s through the middle of nowhere so …
SDC: So you can maybe exceed the speed limit a little?
WR: [laughs] Maybe a little.
SDC: What kind of car do you drive?
WR: I just have a Chevy truck.
SDC: That would make sense. Well, let’s go back to start of your CSU career. You redshirted your first year and then started off initially playing guard before moving to center. How did that come about?
WR: I played guard for the first three games of my career, I believe, and the fourth game they moved me to center. From then on, I played primarily center, but there were a few times where we had to move some guys around. I was mostly a center that first season, but some guard, too.
SDC: Had you taken snaps at center before they put you there? That’s not a position it’s easy to just jump right into.
WR: I had done it a little bit. They knew they needed a replacement at center. My true freshman team they had me running center on scout team. I was learning the position and the duties of that. They knew I could do it, but it is a tough position, like you said, to just throw a guy in there. So I think that’s why they started me at guard at first.
SDC: You were tossed late in a game your freshman year against Idaho for fighting a guy, right?
WR: Yeah. It was a hands-to-the-face deal, and I just got into the facemask. We actually appealed it, and there were no suspensions or anything.
SDC: Tell me about the end of your sophomore year, breaking your right hand and playing a few other spots on the line.
WR: Yeah, a game my sophomore year we played San Diego State. I broke one of the fingers in my right hand. It was my snapping hand, so I couldn’t play center. The next two games they moved me to tackle. Then the last game of the season I moved back to center and snapped with my left hand.
SDC: That’s pretty impressive.
WR: Yeah, man. My hand was really, really hurting. It was to the point where I thought I might have to sit out. My dad and I talked about it and thought it would be a pretty good challenge for me to play with a club [on the hand], especially playing center and snapping with my left hand. I am pretty proud of that.
SDC: And now you’re considered one of the best center prospects in the draft. Most guys I talk to say the NFL was their goal — but when did the league first become something realistic for you? When did you first think, OK, I think I can play at this level?
WR: I think I started to get the realization when I was a sophomore. After my freshman year, I was a Freshman All-American. Sophomore year, I think I played really, really well. That just really helped my confidence and gave me the realization that working hard had made me better and that I would have the chance to play at the next level.
SDC: I have only watched a few of your games, but the New Mexico Bowl game against Washington State — your final college game — seemed like a pretty strong game for you. I came away thinking you played with a defensive mentality.
WR: Yeah, I mean, I think that’s what makes me a unique center. I don’t see other guys going after people the way I do. That’s something we really prided ourselves on at Colorado State — we really put an emphasis on finishing. We really focus on knockdown blocks and getting after guys. If you out a guy on his back, he probably can’t make the play. I always wanted to go out and get after people. We had some pretty nasty guys up front, and I just wanted to match that. We enjoy contact.
SDC: How has working with former NFL center LeCharles Bentley been?
WR: Yeah, he has so much knowledge about the position. Some of the stuff we’ve worked on has been adapting to the faster speed of the [NFL] game, getting more efficient with my movement in pass sets. Defensive linemen’s get-offs are a lot faster, so efficiency and quickness are big ones. Getting myself acclimated to the tempo of the game is the biggest thing.
SDC: Who was your toughest matchup at the Senior Bowl?
WR: Aaron Donald.
SDC: No hesitation there in your answer.
WR: Yeah, he was … there were a lot of guys there that week and he was the guy. Just talking about speed and get-off, that’s his thing. It took some adjustment to get used to that, but I really had a lot of fun going against him. He was a challenge, and he made me better.
SDC: What was the Senior Bowl experience like for you? Most guys come away saying it was really valuable for them.
WR: My goal down there was to silence the critics of whether I could play with the big-time competition and not just play with them but play well against the big-time competition. I was really excited during that week because I think I did a good job.
But in addition to that, it was just really cool. I was in awe … well, maybe not in awe, but when we were meeting with teams there, sitting with Rex Ryan, sitting with Mike Tomlin and talking to him for a bit, that was one of the more special experiences I have had through this whole pre-draft time.
SDC: What’s your best playing weight, do you think? I know you have dipped under 300 before.
WR: I think my ideal weight is probably 310. I am 305 right now. I could drop 10 pounds in two days and gain it back in a day, so it’s just … in football, I feel like it fluctuates so much. After a tough practice you can lose [a lot of weight]. I think I’ll be about 310 when I report to camp, and I think that’s probably a good start.
SDC: Have you been asked much by NFL teams about playing guard at all? Or has it predominantly been center?
WR: It has been a little bit about guard. Most teams carry seven players [on the gameday roster] so they want to know how versatile you are. They’ve asked me about guard, and I tell them: That’s where I started. I am no stranger to it, and I am not opposed to it at all. I can play guard. I just want to play. Wherever they want me, I can do it.
SDC: What teams have you worked out for privately?
WR: Out of fairness to the teams, and their privacy, I’d rather not say. I’d kind of rather keep that between them and myself.
SDC: Wow, you’re already a seasoned pro.
WR: [laughs] It’s a giant poker game, and everyone wants to keep their hand concealed.
SDC: OK, have time for a few fun questions?
WR: No problem.
SDC: So I hear Big City Burrito is all the rage up in Fort Collins. Is it all it’s cracked up to be?
WR: You know what? It is [all the rage], but I only have been there like one time. I didn’t think it was the best place ever.
SDC: So what is the best place ever?
WR: I think Café Mexicali is probably the best place there, in my opinion. It’s a burrito place as well.
SDC: You’ve now started a burrito holy war, no doubt.
WR: A huge one, I am sure. [laughs]
SDC: Besides the burrito joint, what’s the most fun thing to do in town? For me, it would be visiting the breweries.
WR: I’d probably tell them to go out to Horsetooth Reservoir during the summer and rent a boat, take it out on the lake and just enjoy life. We’ve done that a couple times during the summer and it is just really beautiful out there.
SDC: Your teammate, tight end Crockett Gillmore, seems like an interesting cat. What’s the story on this guy?
WR: [laughs] Yeah, we’re really similar in some ways. He can really get after guys as well. We’re from the same area of Texas. We are raised with the same values. We treat football the same way. If I could bring one guy with me anywhere in the NFL, it would be him.
SDC: I loved the guy from the minute he showed up to the Senior Bowl mid-week as an injury replacement player, he caught a touchdown and dunked the ball over the goalpost. Even if that’s illegal now in the NFL, he had me right there.
WR: That was awesome. That was so cool to see that. He’s always going to give it his all, no matter what it is. He makes waves. He’s going to be very physical and give it everything it takes to get the job done. A real tough player. And a really good dude, too.
SDC: Best movie you have seen recently?
WR: Probably “Lone Survivor.” It was just amazing to see that people actually go through that for our freedom. An amazing story.
SDC: Best music to lift weights to?
WR: I listen to all kinds of music, but if I am lifting weights and I have control [of it], I’ll put on some metal. Some really hard metal — stuff that you can’t even understand the words.
SDC: Do your teammates and lifting buddies agree?
WR: Definitely not. [laughs] I am a rare breed — us metal folks are a rare breed. Once you find a metal person, you really can appreciate their friendship and treasure that, because it’s rare.
SDC: Ever listen to Mastodon?
WR: I listened to that way back in the day. I am really into Lamb Of God. They’re probably one of the more popular ones. Any of the other ones, you probably have not heard of them.
SDC: Favorite activity when you’re not thinking about football?
WR: Oh, man. I really enjoy getting away in the weight room. I think it would be fun to body build after football, get some good curls in. Turn on the music, like we were talking about, and just kick back.
SDC: How much can you squat?
WR: I haven’t maxed in forever. I think the last time I squatted was maybe like 525.
SDC: Uh, yeah. I can barely break 200.
WR: Well, I have a little extra weight on me, which helps.
SDC: I am heavier than you think. Where will you be on draft weekend?
WR: I’ll be here in Bushland. I think I have about 4-5 teammates coming down, a lot of family coming in. It’ll be a big draft celebration with Crockett Gillmore’s family.
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