CSU football players out of their southern comfort zone

Everyone has seen the movie, “Friday Night Lights,” but very few have lived it. For seniors Jared Biard and Weston Richburg, and their junior punchbag, Crockett Gillmore, that movie was life.

All three are now starters for the Colorado State Rams, but they grew up in the heart of American football: Texas.

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Gillmore and Richburg grew up in the same small town of Bushland where they both attended Bushland High School.

“Our stadium held a couple thousand people, and there would be three to five thousand at our home games, standing all around the fences, cooking out,” Richburg said. “All the old farts go to coffee shops and talk about high school football. It’s pretty much like you see in the movies.”

It becomes obvious that Richburg and Gillmore have been friends since middle school when listening to them insult each other cheerfully.

Biard hails from the southernmost part of the Lone Star state, renamed “the arm-pit of Texas” by Richburg. After being introduced to Richburg on their official visit, he turned the Gillmore-Richburg duo into a country-boy trio.

Since Gilmore joined the pair at CSU in 2010, they have become inseparable. Though all three professed their love for the mountains and snow of Colorado — “My visit was the first time I had ever seen snow,” Biard said — the born-and-raised Texans carry pride for their home state.

“I miss the people. We are from a small town where you see people moving cows across the highways, you know every single person that drives by — they give you the little finger-wave, you give it back,” Richburg says of his home town. “’Amarillo Sky?’ (by Jason Aldean) That’s where we are from. When I drive a tractor, I listen to that song; it’s basically about me.”

Country boys through-and-through, Gillmore and Richburg walked out of the locker room post-practice in jeans, button-downs and cowboy boots. Richburg was even sporting a big silver belt buckle. So how did these three southerners end up in Rams uniforms?

For Gillmore, it was the pull of his older brother, who has since graduated, and Richburg. For Biard it was the chill of the snow and the view of the mountains, and for Richburg, it was the excellence of CSU’s agricultural sciences program.

“I’m from a small farm community, and I wanted to major in animal science,” he said. “CSU has one of the best ag programs in the country, so this was a great opportunity, it all worked out really good for me.”

But even at the collegiate level, Colorado football cannot measure up to Texas where it’s a religion. Historically, it has consistently produced large numbers of high-caliber players and is the No. 1 birthplace of those that make it to the NFL.

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“The town shut down on Friday nights. Our stadium sat about 10,000 people, and it would be packed to the brim. Signs on mainstreet would tell people to go the games,” Biard said. “You ain’t nobody unless you played high school football in Texas. You were bred to play football. It’s just what you do.”

Thanks to hardwork and some country cooking, Richburg, Biard and Gillmore are able to live out their dream to play D1 football. As coach Gary Gaines would say, “Gentlemen, the hopes and dreams of an entire town are riding on your shoulders. You may never matter again in your life as much as you do right now.”

They may be out of their southern comfort zone, but for three boys from Texas, whenever they play under the lights, it feels like home.

Football Beat Reporter Cali Rastrelli can be reached at sports@collegian.com.