Sophomore Antonio Richardson's nickname may be "Tiny," but the 6-foot6-inch, 332 pound mammoth left tackle is determined to make an enormous impact on the field this season.
Richardson started his first game against the N.C. State Wolfpack on Friday in the Georgia Dome with some butterflies in his stomach. It was obvious to Richardson's teammates and coaches that he couldn't wait to finally get on the field for the season opener.
"He jumped offsides on the first play of the game," said head coach Derek Dooley. "We had a bet that he would mess up on the first snap. Nobody bet on Tiny not jumping offside."
Richardson's teammate, left guard Dallas Thomas, also noticed the pregame jitters.
"We have to work with him on staying calm for a big game," said Thomas. "Once he got the first game jitters out, he played really well."
Richardson said that his mind was a blur when he first got onto the field.
"I couldn't hear anything, and I was a little jittery," Richardson said.
After earning the starting spot at left tackle as a sophomore, Richardson still feels as though he has a lot to prove.
"I was ready to show everyone that I can play on the Division-1 level," Richardson said.
Richardson is always focused on developing himself into the best player that he can be. He has improved with the help of two of his teammates, seniors Dallas Thomas and Carson Anderson. Richardson said that Anderson and Thomas have been huge factors in developing his mental aspect of the game.
"Tiny" is the second largest player on the team, behind junior nose tackle Daniel McCullers (377 pounds). Richardson admits that McCullers can eat much more than he can.
"I'm in the top five on the team when it comes to eating, not top three," he said.
One might wonder how a guy that big could get the nickname "Tiny". Richardson said he started being called "Tiny" when he went to Ensworth High School in Nashville.
"I've never been tiny," Richardson said. "Ever since I was in preschool, I've always been the biggest kid in my class."
The Vols expect to use Richardson's size as an asset this season, and he made an immediate impact during the N.C. State game. The Vols averaged just over 90 rushing yards per game in the 2011 season. They more than doubled that amount Friday against a worthy opponent in N.C. State, gaining 191 yards on the ground.
Even though the Vols got a great win on Friday, Tiny knows that there is still room for improvement.
"When you get a big win, and see the corrections you can make, it lets you know how much better you can be, and that's exciting," said Richardson. "The fact that we can get 100 times better is really scary."