For one NFL player, the events in Ferguson, Mo. are very close to home.
New York Jets defensive end Sheldon Richardson grew up down the road from Ferguson, where protests and riots over the shooting death of Michael Brown have gripped the nation for the past week. Richardson was a standout player at Gateway High School in St. Louis then made a two-year stop at junior college before two seasons at Missouri.
Richardson knows the area well, as he told Metro New York on Tuesday, including the QuickTrip convenience store, the local McDonald's and other local spots now embroiled in the violent riots. Richardson said that his parents — who still live close to Ferguson — are safe but that he's saddened by the recent events.
“People are a little frustrated with how things have gone down. [The police] are supposed to protect and serve and people are lashing out,” Richardson said. “I don’t fully understand what’s going on but I understand where they are coming from. Back in the day, I remember those type of guys.”
The No. 13 pick in the 2013 NFL draft, Richardson cautioned those protesting the shooting death of Brown to be smart and safe.
“Be safe and stay strong. Whatever the cause is, whatever you think it may be,” Richardson said. “Be safe with it and be strong with it and know how to go about business.”
Richardson has a bright future with the Jets after being named the NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. But he's worried about the safety of a place that was a big part of his past.
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Kristian R. Dyer writes for Metro New York and is a contributor to Yahoo Sports. Follow him on Twitter @KristianRDyer