Anthony Richardson is about to become the highest-drafted quarterback from the University of Florida since Steve Spurrier was taken third overall in 1967. He's a physical specimen, one who — if he blossoms correctly — could become one of the most dynamic and imposing dual-threat quarterbacks in the league.
And when he is selected Thursday night in the 2023 NFL Draft, he already knows whom he's helping once he receives his first NFL paycheck: his mother, LaShawnda Cleare. Richardson's mother has not only been instrumental in raising the former Gators signal-caller, but she also sacrificed constantly during his childhood to make sure he got to where he is now.
Anthony Richardson's Mom LaShawnda Cleare Made Endless Sacrifices
Though Richardson played his high school football at Eastside High in Gainesville, he didn't grow up there. Richardson spent the first 10 years of his life in Miami, where Cleare had him when she was 17. The single mother moved him and his little brother, Corey, who was 3 at the time, to Gainesville because Cleare worried about gun violence where they lived. Richardson's father, Will, still lives in Miami, though their relationship is still a "work in progress," according to Richardson.
Happy Mother?s Day to the greatest! ?? ? pic.twitter.com/MUULahjLet
— Anthony Richardson ? (@GVOaant) May 12, 2019
"It was hard. I struggled," Cleare told NFL.com. "We didn't have much. I had to work several jobs, a lot of hours without much sleep to pay for clothes, food, rent and bills. I hope people don't judge me. I did the best I could. I wanted my kids to be better than me and have a much better life. I didn't see it as a sacrifice."
Cleare's sacrifices are the reason Richardson nearly teared up when talking to reporters at the NFL Scouting Combine this year.
Anthony Richardson talking about his growing up and his family and getting a little emotional pic.twitter.com/GvE9Fm6u6n
— Billy ?Arm Wrestled Travis Bagent? Riccette (@Billy_Riccette) March 3, 2023
"My mom, she doesn't want me to do anything for her," Richardson said. "Because she said it was her job as a mother to take care of me the way she did, and I'm definitely thankful for her and I love her. You're about to make me cry up here. But, I'm definitely gonna take care of my mom. Whatever she wants, she can have it. I don't have anything in mind, but whatever she wants she just has to call my name and I got it."
The move to East Gainesville helped Richardson tremendously. He excelled in class and became a star on the gridiron. He graduated early from the Professional Academies Magnet at Loften High School's Academy of Fire and Emergency Medical Services. Because the school didn't have a football team, he was allowed to play at Eastside, where he was the ninth-ranked dual-threat quarterback recruit in the nation, according to 247Sports.
While Richardson was busy with all of that, he was also helping to raise his little brother. That job, in addition to the death of his uncle, molded him into the man he is today.
The Death of Richardson's Uncle Inspired His Greatness
Gator Love! ? pic.twitter.com/HxAI4ua9SZ
— Anthony Richardson ? (@GVOaant) March 23, 2019
Cleare's brother, Uncle Tanka, is the reason he became attached to football. Tanka gave Richardson a Nerf football when he was 2. He once threw it so hard it nearly shattered a window. Tanka heard the commotion and asked him to throw it again. As it whizzed to Tanka, he smiled, likely because he knew what Richardson had in front of him.
"His uncle Tanka showed him how to hold his arm and throw. He taught him football," Cleare told NFL.com. "Tanka was a funny jokester. To know Tanka is to love him. He was the male father figure in Anthony's life."
When Tanka died while Richardson was in sixth grade, it crushed him. It's why Richardson has a tattoo of a crowned lion on his right forearm honoring him.
"He has always been around for me, whether it's for school or football,'' Richardson told FloridaGators.com. "He always looked at me as his son. That's always stayed with me. I just love how he was always there for me."
Tanka's influence was so important that Richardson will be wearing him on the night of the draft. Well, sort of. Richardson told NFL.com he plans to wear pictures of his uncle and his grandma Mildred on the inside lining of his jacket.
From his mother's sacrifices to his uncle's influence and his brother's bond, Richardson's dreams will all come true once he hears his name called Thursday night. At that moment, he'll have made everyone who's helped him immensely proud.
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