‘He’s a difference-maker’: acquiring first overall pick Tyrell Richards a ‘priority’ for Alouettes’ GM Danny Maciocia

Courtesy: AP Photo/Gail Burton

Love is an emotion that can be felt in a myriad of ways. There is romantic love, the platonic love between friends, the love a parent feels for their child, and even unhealthy infatuation, but far fewer poets have written about the unique type of love that captivated the Montreal Alouettes’ front office the last few weeks.

There was something about Syracuse University linebacker Tyrell Richards that set general manager Danny Maciocia’s heart aflutter from the very moment he laid eyes on him at the CFL National Combine. Falling head over heels for a prospect can be a dangerous proposition, but Maciocia simply had to have the object of his affection.

“I think he’s a difference maker. He checks off so many boxes,” the Als’ GM raved during an appearance on TSN 690. “He can come off the edge and be a pass rusher, he can play at the second level as a linebacker and we’ve even seen him drop in coverage. Offensively, when you look at such an individual, you don’t know how to address them.”

And so, like many lovelorn souls before him, Maciocia was driven to act boldly, trading away the fourth overall selection and the rights to current NFL offensive lineman Carter O’Donnell to grab the first overall pick in the 2022 CFL Draft from the Edmonton Elks. It was the only spot where Richards would be available and the Alouettes were taking no chances.

“He is unique and for us, it was a priority to see if we could make a run at him,” Maciocia explained. “We knew that if we could get the first pick overall, he wouldn’t be there past number one.”

Now, he has added more than just a dynamic defensive chess piece for coordinator Barron Miles to play with. The six-foot-three, 230-pound Richards has 4.60 forty-yard speed that will make him a dominant force from day one on Jeff Reinebold’s special teams unit.

“We do know that he can play on all four special teams. He was a special teams player of the year at Syracuse and his testing numbers are off the chart,” Maciocia marvelled. “When you watch him play, you realize he’s someone that’s really dynamic as far as he can cover a lot of real estate. There’s more than just some physicality to his game, he’s one of the better ones I’ve seen here the last few years.”

At times though, love’s rose-coloured glasses can make you blind to red flags. Yes, Richards amassed 54 tackles, nine-and-a-half tackles for loss, six sacks, one interception, and one forced fumble for Syracuse, but he did so in just three seasons.

The apple of the Alouettes’ eye spent considerable time in the doghouse of Orange coaches, was briefly suspended for a DUI as a junior, and didn’t play at all last year after a failed attempt to transfer. It was enough to scare off Edmonton from a player many thought they would covet highly, but Maciocia was more than comfortable.

He weighed heavily the recommendation of Richards’ high school coach Larry Jusdanis and emerged from three lengthy interviews with the prospect confident that he was mature enough for their locker room.

“You start to feel like there was a connection, a positive one, that we started to get a feel for one another,” Maciocia noted.

After their final 45-minute conversation, Richards expressed extreme excitement about the prospect of the Alouettes coming to get him. With their affection clearly mutual, Montreal pulled the trigger and Maciocia has no doubt that he made the right decision.

“We felt like we’ve got everything that we need. As far as the individual is concerned, as far as his background is concerned, the football player, it’s just a question of trying to get this trade done here and try to get that first pick overall,” he remarked.

“We’ve got a pretty good feel for the person and the football player, and we know that the fans are gonna love Tyrell Richards.”