by John Shipley
Many times it is forgotten that professional athletes, while immensely talented and physically gifted, are essentially just like any other person. They like music, video games, art, and, in the case of Jacksonville Jaguars offensive lineman Will Richardson, making their voices heard.
On Sundays in the fall, Richardson is committed to one singular goal: helping the Jaguars on the football field. But while away from the gridiron moving forward, Richardson will be using his platform and talents to build his brand and tell the stories of those around him.
Since April, Richardson and lifelong friend Cody Perdue have hosted ‘Sideline Story with Will and Cody’, a podcast in which the two discuss the every day lives of athletes on and off the field. In Perdue’s words, they are “peeling back the layers” of their guests and showing fans throughout all sports leagues that there are more to athletes than what they see on the fields or courts.
Since the two’s first episode, they have hosted episodes with guests such as Jacksonville Jaguars quarterback Gardner Minshew II, former Bengals wide receiver Brandon Tate, Indianapolis Colts running back Nyheim Hines, Minnesota Vikings offensive lineman Garrett Bradbury, basketball player J.T. Terrell, Carolina Panthers wide receiver Pharoh Cooper and the first set of three brothers to play on the same NFL field in league history with Trey, Terrell, and Tremaine Edmunds.
“When I first went to NC State, I was a communication major. I wanted to be into communication broadcasting, so I really like talking. And more than that, I love getting to meet new people,” Richardson told JaguarReport.
“I love getting my name out. I love meeting new people and creating relationships with people that will last for a lifetime. And like I tell everyone the NFL stands for not for long. So I want to do whatever I can to build my platform while I still have this NFL under my name, and use it the best way I can. And I feel like to do that, a podcast is a great way to do that just to get my words out there.”
The podcast, which features conversations on not just sports but on life, the current social climate of the world, investments and more, was born out of an idea from the two friends. For Perdue, it was a chance to give athletes a platform to be their true selves and to let fans around the world know more about the person and not just the athlete.
“I think it’s just that everybody brings something to the table. Everybody has some kind of unique experience, some kind of hobby, some kind of thing that they do that it sets them apart from somebody else. And just hearing the similarities and the differences is something that I thoroughly enjoy,” Perdue told JaguarReport.
But it was long before Richardson and Perdue took their goals and ambitions to the airwaves that the two friends, who describe each other as more like family, were a dynamic team. The two became friends when Richardson enrolled at Cummings High School in Burlington, NC, a place in which Richardson would meet offensive coordinator Jay Perdue, Cody’s dad.
“We played with each other for three years and then I ended up going to college and everything but you know, our friendship really started with football and just traveling on a lot of my visits. I remember his dad would take me to all the colleges that were looking at me,” Richardson recalled.
“We’re going somewhere. We’re going to get my name out, we’re going to get my face out to make sure these people see me. And on all these trips, like I said, I always have my right-hand man in Cody there with me. ”
Cody Perdue was no stranger to visits to college campuses thanks to a life growing up around football, but it was different when it was Richardson taking the visit. Perdue now had a personal connection to each visit, and he and his family ended up supporting Richardson all the way through to his decision to attend N.C. State and to eventually declare for the NFL Draft as a junior in 2018, when he was eventually selected by the Jaguars in the fourth round.
“We were going through to Florida State, Virginia Tech, Indiana. Georgia, Georgia Tech, Florida, wherever. Literally we would get in the car sometimes at like four or five a.m. after we just had a game on Friday night, and we’re going to a different college,” Perdue said.
Richardson’s rookie year with the Jaguars wasn’t entirely noteworthy but in his second season, he started two games at left tackle and then appeared in nearly every other game as a rotational right guard. Richardson will now be moved to left tackle on a full-time basis entering 2020’s training camp. And according to Richardson, it was the support of the Perdue family through the years that helped get him to a point in which he can use his brand to elevate others.
“The Perdue family, they really have shown me a lot and given me a lot and have really opened up a lot of doors for me. I really can give them a lot for my success,” Will said.
“I look at Cody more as like family. He and his family are like family, you know, just because I feel like if it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t even be in a situation I am today ”
The situation Richardson is in today now involves him and Perdue attempting to turn their show into one of the sports worlds go-to podcasts. Not many podcasts have a host who is a current NFL player, something Perdue and Richardson want to use to their advantage when developing their show.
But the show wasn’t something the two had always had extensive conversations about. Instead, the idea came to the two and they hit the ground running in their attempts to reach the heights of other great sports podcasts.
“I’m somebody that I listen to podcasts regularly. Whether it’s LeBetard show or, you know all the smoke with Matt Barnes and Stephen, Jackson, or Bomani Jones. I listen to podcasts all the time,” Perdue said. “So, you know, this COVID stuff hits so everything was kind of at a standstill and I was listening and thinking to myself. I just threw that idea out to Will, because, you know, he listens to podcasts and stuff a little bit too. I was like, ‘Hey, man, have you ever thought about like, maybe starting a podcast or you starting a podcast because there’s not that many active like NFL guys [hosting].”
Richardson said it is important to him to be able to use the podcast to give athletes a platform to talk and be themselves without any worry of finding themselves in interviews designed to trap them and get a controversial quote.
Instead, he wants to learn more about his NFL peers, coaches, NBA players, musicians and whoever else wants to have their voice heard on the Sideline Story. Like him, they are all normal people. They just need a platform to let that be known.
“I could talk all day. So not only that, but I love people. So just to interact with people and do it through a podcast and for other people to be able to go and listen to it and enjoy it, it’s been amazing,” Richardson said.
“And just like Cody said, he came up with the idea and literally the day he told me, I called my marketing agent and we got straight to it, right? Because it just sounded like something productive and it sounded like something that could help me a lot in the future with building my brand. ”
The two have had countless memorable conversations since launching the podcast, such as with Minshew describing to the pair the story behind his grandparents originally wanting to name him Beowulf and extensive conversations with fellow Jaguars teammates Josh Dobbs and A.J. Cann. The hope for both is as the show continues to bloom and grow, so do the conversations.
“You know, of course we talk football, of course we’re going to connect through football, but we want to know about you as a person before a football player,” Richardson said. “So like I said, that’s the big thing with the Sideline Story. We want to connect deeply with the with players, coaches, and all professional athletes. Not through their profession but through their personalities.”
The pair plan to continue producing episodes even during the NFL season, with Richardson and Perdue both noting they are configuring strategies to host episodes and have them on all platforms while Richardson is in the midst of a grinding football season. The show has been the perfect use of Richardson’s time during the COVID-19 impacted offseason, and it is now something he doesn’t want to give up because he genuinely enjoys it.
“I honestly can say that now that I’ve started it. It’s like something that I don’t want to stop now. Like it’s something that I really enjoy doing,” Richardson said. “At first I was a little worried like, okay, it might be cool for the first month for the first couple of episodes, but I’ve noticed that every episode I’ve gotten more in tune with what I’m talking about. And I just enjoy it more and more.”
Where will the Sideline Story go from here? There is no telling, but it is clear the pair of Richardson and Perdue not only have no intention of stopping, but they have no intention of simply trying to be another sports podcast. Instead, they want to be as great.
“Honestly we’re shooting for the stars. We want this thing to be on par with, you know, all the top podcasts in the sports world,” Perdue said.
“We want it to be on par with you know the barstool podcasts. We want it to be on par with All the Smoke and Knuckleheads podcast. We want it to be on par with Bomani Jones and, and you know, while those things may not be easy to achieve right now, it is definitely something we think down the road we can get to and it’s just about you know, improving a little bit each day and you know, taking small steps to get where we want to go. We’re definitely shooting for the stars. ”