Six years after he expected to return home to the Bay Area with the Arizona State football team to face Cal, Angelo Richardson finally is making the trip.
"I'm pretty excited about it," Richardson said.
On Saturday at Memorial Stadium, Richardson will wear his No. 2 ASU jersey but watch from a wheelchair because of a random moment of violence that changed his life forever.
A native of Oakland, Richardson was signed to a scholarship in January 2006 to play wide receiver for the Sun Devils. At Santa Rosa Junior College the previous fall, he caught 93 passes for 1,334 yards and 18 touchdowns.
"I saw Angelo on film, and he was one of those players who immediately jumped off the screen at you," said Dirk Koetter, ASU's head coach at the time and now the offensive coordinator for the Atlantic Falcons. "He could run by everybody, he had size, speed, toughness, elusiveness."
Two months later, in San Francisco with friends, Richardson was caught in the middle of a shooting incident that had nothing to do with him. He took one bullet in the chest, another in the back and was left paralyzed from the waist down.
Koetter recalled the episode as "shocking and surreal," but made Richardson a promise: His ASU scholarship would be there for him no matter how long it took.
Following six years of hard work at two different rehabilitation centers, Richardson, 27, is enrolled in classes at Tempe. He is majoring in justice with dreams of becoming a sports agent or perhaps attending law school.
More than that, he has been made a part of the team by new Sun Devils coach Todd Graham.
Jean Boyd, senior associate athletic director at ASU, has helped Richardson settle in on campus.
"As the first game approached, I could tell he was on edge," Boyd said. "This was his first game as part of the ASU family. He didn't come here just to get his degree, he came here to be part of ASU football as much as he can."
So Boyd spoke to Graham about getting the former Skyline-Oakland and San Ramon Valley star involved.
"When they approached me about it, it was a no-brainer," Graham said. "He's a great example of incredible spirit and attitude ... an example of how you respond to adversity. He's a big part of what we're doing."
Richardson attends most practices, goes to film sessions, trains in the weight room and is in the locker room with teammates before home games.
Early this week, Graham invited Richardson to fly with the team to the Bay Area, where he will visit 6-year-old daughter Angelia and watch the Cal-ASU game with his father.
"It was totally a surprise," Richardson said. "Coach Graham's been awesome."
Boyd describes Richardson as always having a smile on his face and believes he will impact the lives of others.
"A couple of times I've had guys in my office complaining a little bit about workouts or school and (Richardson) comes wheeling in and goes out and I'll say, 'OK, what do you really have to be complaining about?'
"I'm sure he's had dark moments along the way," Boyd said. "But when I leave his presence I feel uplifted."
Richardson said he hasn't given up on someday walking. But he spends no time worrying about "what-if" scenarios.
"It took me a long time to get over the whole ordeal and finally become comfortable with who I am in this position," he said. "I'm pretty much on the team, just not playing. This is a great time for me."