Young Demario Richard of Palmdale High is already an old hand at football

Running back Demario Richard of Palmdale High might as well carry around his birth certificate, because it's the only way to convince people of his age.

When he tells strangers how old he is, the reaction is always the same: "Wow!"

He enrolled at Palmdale as a 13-year-old freshman. He'll be playing this fall as a 16-year-old senior.

"I've been going through this since I was young," he said. "I remember one year we were playing against a team, 'We want to see his birth certificate.' I showed my birth certificate. 12-2-96. 'Oh man, he's a youngie.' They call me a man-child, a freak of nature."

He's certainly a freak on the football field. At 5 feet 10 and 200 pounds, with speed, power and excellent hands, Richard has prompted Coach Jeff Williams to compare him to NFL Hall of Fame member Emmitt Smith.

"He's got a low center of gravity, great mobility, great agility and has full vision of the field," Williams said. "He makes cuts that are a wonder to watch."

As a junior, Richard rushed for 1,722 yards and 24 touchdowns and averaged 9.2 yards per carry.

He has tried to add an extra step of speed this season along with 20 more pounds of strength. Palmdale has been sending him in motion out of the backfield all summer trying to take advantage of his versatility while preparing to create one-on-one mismatches.

"He's going to beat 99 out of 100 of those guys," Williams said.

Being a running back gives Richard so much joy.

"I like everything about it," he said. "I like to score. I like to make people miss. I like to make people look bad. Running back is my thing of nature."

His ability to know when to cut back and elude a tackler can't be taught. It's an instinct that separates him from others.

"If the coach tells me to run through them, I'll run through them," he said. "Get by them, I'll get by them. Score, I'm going to score."

Being coachable is a big part of his game. He believes in listening and following instructions.

"You can't play football without being coachable," he said.

Williams said Richard has been always highly regarded.

"As a freshman, if we could have brought him up, he would have started for us," he said.

But he was 13 and ineligible to play on varsity.

He's more than making up for lost varsity time. He had 1,349 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns as a sophomore. Last season, he had 269 yards rushing against Quartz Hill, 234 yards against Highland and 194 yards against Valencia.

It sets the stage for what could be a memorable senior season, because Richard is going to be turned loose as a runner and pass catcher.

"He has all the intangibles," Williams said. "He can catch the ball, he can run over you, he can run around you."

Twitter: @LATSondheimer

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