Max Richardson led Boston College in total tackles (108), TFLs (14.5), and sacks (3.5) in 2019, but, rather than leaving for the pros, the All-ACC Second Teamer decided to return for a fifth and final year on the Heights.
The veteran linebacker, who was one of the lone bright spots of a defense that gave up a program-worst 32.2 points per game that season and missed the Birmingham Bowl with a bum hamstring, said he had “unfinished business.”
This fall, Richardson helped the Eagles jumpstart the restoration of their defensive tradition under new head coach Jeff Hafley while serving as the heart and soul of BC’s locker room. And on Tuesday, he made an announcement that many anticipated last year, declaring for the NFL Draft.
“My journey at Boston College has been an incredible experience,” Richardson said in a Tuesday night Instagram post. “One that will forever shape my actions as a man and a leader. I was able to learn lifelong lessons, acquire lifelong relationships, and attend a school which takes great pride in service to others.”
Richardson rounded out his BC career 11th in total tackles with 316, after piling up 99—the second most on the team and the 10th most in the nation—this season.
The Duluth, Georgia, native was all over the field, registering 10 or more tackles in five of the Eagles’ 11 games, en route to receiving All-ACC Third-Team honors. He tallied a career-high 15 at then-No. 23 Virginia Tech yet had his best game at Syracuse, where he logged two sacks and nine solo tackles, earning his highest Pro Football Focus grade (73.0) of the season.
Richardson’s overall defensive grade dropped from 73.4 in 2019 to 59.1 in 2020, according to PFF, largely because of his struggles against the run and lapses in coverage. Wrapping up, especially mobile quarterbacks, was a recurring issue, as was covering dynamic running backs in the flat. Fellow linebacker Isaiah McDuffie—who declared for the draft earlier this month—shared some of the same deficiencies.
Richardson, however, did improve his pass rushing skills in 2020, grading out 1.2 points higher in that department than he did the previous season, per PFF. The graduate student had the fourth-most quarterback hurries (13) and second-most sacks (3.5) on the team. His tackling numbers as a whole were certainly impressive, considering that only three ACC players (McDuffie included) had more this year.
Above all else, though, Richardson was the undeniable leader of the program.
When BC decided to opt out of bowl season, Hafley appointed Richardson, one of five team captains this season, to make the announcement. Richardson also led discussions about the Black Lives Matter movement and the 2020 general election, proclaiming in training camp that “we need to be aware of what’s going on, and we need to know that there are things that are going on in this country that aren’t right.”
Richardson has been around the program for quite some time. Before ranking eighth in the country in solo tackles in 2019, he started 11 games as a redshirt sophomore in 2018, the year BC cracked the AP Poll for the first time since 2008 and brought College GameDay back to Chestnut Hill. The 6-foot, 230-pound linebacker notched 76 total tackles that season, good for third most on the team.
He started the first four games at middle linebacker the previous year, recording 23 total tackles in the process, but suffered a season-ending knee injury, for which he was granted a medical redshirt.
Richardson’s freshman season in 2016 consisted mostly of special teams snaps, although he mounted 10 total tackles and forced the first fumble of his BC career.
All in all, Richardson played 50 games in a BC uniform. He made his mark in the second level of the Eagles’ defense and helped bridge the gap between the Steve Addazio and Hafley eras.
“Boston College will forever be a home to me, and my time on the Heights will always have a special place in my heart,” Richardson said. “I am honored to have played linebacker at Boston College.”