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Before heading to Georgetown, Beckley’s Richardson-Cook hopeful for strong showing in North-South Football Classic

INSTITUTE, W.Va. — While Keynan Richardson-Cook enjoyed strong careers as a football, basketball and track and field athlete over his time at Woodrow Wilson High School, none of the aforementioned three sports was his first love.

“I started out playing soccer,” Richardson-Cook recalled Monday as a guest on MetroNews Citynet Statewide Sportsline.

Richardson-Cook estimates he began playing youth soccer at the age of 4, before discovering his love for both football and basketball later on.

“Soccer was my first sport, because that’s the earliest sport you can play,” Richardson-Cook said. “Then I got into basketball and football around the same time. I kind of took over with football. You can’t play both [soccer and football] really. Once you get to the high school level, you have to pick. Up through middle school, I always liked basketball more, but then I started growing and realized I was getting bigger and could probably make a bigger impact on the football field. I started putting more of my time there and just kind of fell in love with it.”

Richardson-Cook was a Class AAA honorable mention all-state pick in 2020 as a junior, before enjoying his most memorable campaign on the gridiron in his senior season with the Flying Eagles.

In addition to helping lead Woodrow Wilson to its first playoff appearance since 2014, Richardson-Cook was a first-team all-state pick as a defensive back after intercepting six passes and serving as one of the top team’s top playmakers. Richardson-Cook was also a standout offensively, and the wide receiver finished with 45 receptions for 653 yards and seven touchdowns.

He concluded his career at Beckley as the school’s all-time leader in receiving yardage for a season and career.

A Georgetown signee who will begin college in the fall, Richardson-Cook is first putting a bow on his high school career this week as a member of the South Cardinals in the North-South Football Classic to be held at noon Saturday at South Charleston High School.

The annual event features many of the state’s top senior football players from southern West Virginia high schools against those who also hold that title from northern West Virginia high schools.

“I’ve been doing well so far just trying to jump up and get reps and trying to catch every ball that comes to me,” he said. “Run routes full speed and do everything full speed, because somebody is going to be watching you.”

Richardson-Cook, who is playing with Woodrow Wilson teammate and quarterback Maddex McMillen a final time, has enjoyed the activities associated with the North-South Football Classic.

In addition to a pair of practices every day leading up to Saturday’s contest, players spend the majority of the week on the campus of West Virginia State University. There are also organized off-campus activities for both teams, such as movie night, bowling night and a pool party.

“I’ve loved meeting all these guys,” Richardson-Cook said. “We’ve all bonded really quick. We all have football in common of course, so that’s the basis of most of our conversations, but after you get around people, it’s easy to talk to them. We’re all hanging out with each other and getting to know each other. We have a room setup at the end of our hallway where we watched the [NBA] finals game [Sunday] night. Have to work on the chemistry and stuff.

“On top of that, we have some of the best coaches in the state teaching us the game that we love, so it doesn’t get much better than that.”

With a 4.6 grade-point average in high school, Richardson-Cook never let being a three-sport athlete get in the way of his studies. At Georgetown, he will major in human science pre-med in the nursing school.

Before he turns all his attention toward college, Richardson-Cook anticipates playing both ways on Saturday. He’ll likely begin his Hoyas’ career as a receiver, though Richardson-Cook isn’t opposed to playing defense at the next level.

“I don’t really know how that’ll all go. If they need me on defense and I feel like I’m a better fit there, I might switch,” he said. “For now, I’m playing receiver.”

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