The world has been blindsided by the Coronavirus pandemic, something unseen on earth for more than 100 years.
Forgive Demario Richard if he has a sense of deja vu.
The former Palmdale High star was the Valley’s most heavily recruited football standout after gaining 5,500 all-purpose yards, including 4,251 yards and 63 touchdowns on the ground, from 2011-13.
He set a Sun Bowl record with four touchdowns as a freshman in College Football’s second-oldest bowl game in 2014, and was on his way all-time Arizona State stardom — when it happened.
A freak 2016 weight-lighting core injury on a 500-pound squat that lit up the Internet didn’t just jeopardize his football future.
For a while, Richard wondered if he would ever be able to stand up straight again.
Four years later, the decorated Falcon, still only 23, is ready to launch his comeback tour.
But the national travel ban to Europe is complicating his efforts to report back to the Hamburg Pirates of the German Football League.
“We were supposed to go in mid-March,” Richard said. “Hopefully, now it will be in mid-April.”
Richard’s parents spent what he estimated were several thousand dollars seeing specialists throughout the west trying to heal the core damage.
He recovered well enough to play his final two seasons at ASU.
Richard rushed for 1,027 yards and 12 touchdowns as senior in 2017, fishing fourth on the all-time Sun Devil rushing list.
After going undrafted, he signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Falcons.
The core injury reappeared in training camp, and Richard was released with a medical settlement.
“I was in a deep, dark place after the release,” recalled Richard. “I didn’t know what to do after that, because all I knew was football. My Plan A and Plan B were football.
“Once I got cut I thought it was over, honestly.”
More rehab followed.
But gradually, back in a daily workout routine, Richard’s 5-foot-10, 219-pound frame healed again.
“The injury was fine for at least a year,” Richard said. “But I was nervous to get back on the field and put myself to the test again.”
He tried out unsuccessfully for the Arizona Hot Shots of the doomed Alliance of American Football.
But when he got home, he was contacted on Twitter by the Hamburg Pirates.
“I thought it was a fake page at first,” Richard said. “But then they (direct-messaged) me how they were interested because they had to fill the void of a running back who had left the team. We had a 45-minute conversation, and i was ready to go.”
Richard regained his Sun Devil form in 2019 in Hamburg. Most important, he got through the season in one piece.
The coronavirus pandemic has shut down GFL operations for now. The season, originally scheduled to kick off April 25, may be set back five weeks.
Demario Richard knows all about delay, and disappointment.
The last four years, he says, have been more like four lifetimes of learning.
And he’s come out at the other end doing what he loves — playing football.
“I’m so thankful to my parents for being there for me,” Richard said. “With the time I had to myself, I learned more about myself than I ever thought I would.
“All in all, I’m thankful that the injury happened, because it taught me more about myself than I might have otherwise learned in a lifetime.”