This story is part of an ongoing series that features USF’s black leaders during Black Heritage Month.
In a fight at a high school football game, junior mechanical engineering major Langston Richardson took a hard fall and tore the labrum and rotator cuff of his right shoulder in an attempt to catch himself while diving to the ground.
The surgery sidelined Richardson for what would become the rest of his football career and the start of a long road to recovery.
Between a few issues in his personal life and having his right arm glued to his chest for a month, going to USF on his own in the fall of 2019 seemed even more daunting.
“This injury caused me a lot of mental and physical damage because I was trying to pursue football,” he said.
“I really had to sit and wait for me to heal, and it was just tough when I wanted to get better.”
Richardson grew up inspired by his father’s discipline through his sporting hobbies and he said he was determined to live a life that would emulate the hard work and dedication he witnessed as a child.
“My dad ran 26 marathons, so I [always] been around fitness,” Richardson said.
“It was just something I hadn’t grown up in until then. I want to dedicate myself and some of my time to [it].”
Despite the setback of his injury, Richardson still dreamed of having the same physique his dad had in college, so he started sharing his recovery story on instagram.
Richardson’s dedication to the weight room has earned him more than 20,000 followers on Instagram, where he provides moral support, nutrition and workout advice to his audience.
Aiming to help college-age men improve their lifestyles, the athlete sets an example for his followers, giving them a window into his daily efforts to become better, one workout at a time.
The bitterness of his progress being interrupted by something he couldn’t control motivated him at first to prove to everyone he could do it, he said.
“I was almost a little angry,” Richardson said. “[I said that if] I’m moving to a new state, I’ll show you what I can do.
Instead of running like his father, Richardson optimizes his bodybuilding for strength, size and agility. Despite training in different sports disciplines, he refuses to allow the level of effort to be lower.
Junior biomedical science major Destiny Okungbowa met Richardson during their freshman orientation and said they bonded trying to make the most of the experience.
After three years, their relationship is like two brothers pushing each other to be better every day, according to Okungbowa.
“We can confide in each other about our successes, our passions, our failures and above all, our plans for the future,” he said.
“He brings great energy to the friendship as he is always looking to do better and be better.”
Similar to Richardson, Okungbowa sought to improve his lifestyle once he arrived at USF. He said the progress he has made can be partly attributed to Richardson’s ability to lead by example.
“He started this 100 day challenge, which is a fitness challenge of working out once a day for 100 days straight,” Okungbowa said.
“Every time I wanted to give up I knew I couldn’t because my best friend and rival Langston was working thousands of miles away on summer vacation.”
A semester filled with new friendships, an improved physique and a healthy right shoulder has given Richardson new fuel to continue her Instagram fitness journey.
“I started doing it more and more for [myself],” he said. “I understand that whenever I take care of my body, I’m doing my schoolwork.”
“I plan my life. I am able to set goals and achieve them.
Making fitness a process of daily commitments rather than just physical is what Richardson attributed his growth on social media to. People started talking to him about the benefits of using a similar mindset throughout their own journey.
“What really helps me is when I get DMs of paragraphs and pictures showing people’s transformations,” Richardson said.
“That’s where I really see the impact [of my content].”
The number of likes on his posts or the number of followers he has on his page is not how Richardson gauges his impact. Instead, it rates based on the quality of the information it disseminates and its potential to change someone’s habits.
“It could be 20,000. It could be 20 million,” he said. “At the end of the day, when you do something that helps people, it will have a big impact, whether that impact is seen, recorded or not.”
Richardson’s father, Barry, said he was proud of the development he has seen in his son and the determination he has always shown.
He said there was a time when Richardson had to deal with a tough football coach who wouldn’t give him playing time as a testament to his relentlessness. Instead of giving up, Barry said his son trained hard to improve so much that the coach had no choice but to let him play.
“That’s when I saw him dig deep and dig hard,” he said.
“[Langston was] do it as more reflection of [himself]. Langston dug deep and managed to overcome to make the team and did the same to deal with injuries and so on.
Barry sees his son as someone who will always come out of adversity for his sake and that of his family. Right now, Richardson has no idea how far he can go despite the progress he’s made as an individual, according to Barry.
“I see it as a phoenix just learning to understand its own wings,” he said.
“You must be tested and baptized in the fire and pushed to your limits to become what you are becoming.”
In the future, Richardson wants to apply his father’s “philosophical for no reason” vision to inspire people as a motivational speaker.
“I want to be able to capture an audience and impact them on such a deep level that they feel inclined to change,” he said.
The relationship between a person’s effort in the gym and their ability to overcome their problems is very closely linked, according to Richardson.
With everything he learned inside and outside the gym, Richardson said he knew he had the ability to get the best out of people.
“Everyone is good at something,” he says.
“I just think the most important thing is to bring that out to yourself and everyone around you.”