Sam Richardson heard his name called, threw on his helmet and ran onto the field.
With 4:16 remaining in the first quarter against Kansas on Nov. 17 last season, Richardson trotted out to lead the offense in Lawrence, Kan., with Iowa State trailing 7-3.
Then a redshirt freshman, Richardson ended the game 23-of-27 with 250 passing yards and four touchdowns through the air. He also rushed for 43 yards and another touchdown in a 51-23 victory to lock up an ISU bowl berth.
“He was Sam,” said senior running back Jeff Woody. “To everybody who was watching and to everybody who hadn’t been at practice, it was a surprise. But to us at practice we were like: ‘Well, it’s about time.’ Not about time he got put in, but just kind of let him go and let everyone see what he can do.”
In three weeks, when the Cyclones begin their 2013 season against Northern Iowa at Jack Trice Stadium, it will be Richardson behind center. There will be no quarterback battle as the season begins, as has been the case in years past.
Richardson started the final two games last season — the regular season finale against West Virginia and the Liberty Bowl against Tulsa — going 23-of-52 with 291 yards. He exited the bowl game early with an illness.
He’ll enter this season with that experience and without looking over his shoulder.
“He’s very composed,” Woody said of Richardson’s training camp demeanor. “He doesn’t have to worry about what someone thinks of him or what’s going on. It’s very undisputed that he is the engine that makes everything go.”
ISU coach Paul Rhoads said he has seen a calm and confident Richardson as camp has progressed this summer. Rhoads felt Richardson played uptight at times last season and never fully was relaxed or composed.
With high-intensity games under his belt and training camp snaps with the first team offense, Richardson is already feeling better.
“It’s something that I find comforting that I know I’m the first guy walking out there with the first group of guys,” Richardson said. “But it’s Division I level, everyone is out here for a reason, and everyone is a great player out here.
“So you can’t be too comfortable in that position.”
The redshirt sophomore still has only four games — two of which were starts — to his credit. That means the quarterback who took ISU fans by storm last November is still a work in progress.
“He’ll still have jitters,” said offensive coordinator Courtney Messingham. "He’s by no means going to be, the first day out, a totally finished product. If (fans) expect him to be a totally finished product already, then the expectations are probably a little bit too high.”