Kevin Richardson, an avid basketball and trumpet fan, has dreamed of going to Syracuse University since he was 14 years old, he told Oprah Winfrey in a recent interview.
That dream, however was shattered when Richardson and four other teens dubbed the Central Park Five were wrongly convicted of raping a white jogger April 19, 1989, in the New York park.
Thirty years and an Emmy award-winning miniseries later, the university helped the Syracuse fan fulfill his dream, in part, on Sept. 10.
“This week, Richardson visited the upstate New York campus for the first time and was honored with a Yamaha trumpet, customized jersey and a scholarship in his name,” the university said on Twitter Tuesday.
Richardson, 44, told WSYR-TV as a child, he was in awe of NBA players Derrick Coleman and Dwayne “Pearl” Washington, who both played at Syracuse before being drafted.
“I was a big fan of the Big East in the ’80s. I was a huge fan of that and I was involved in music, so I wanted to do two things,” Richardson said. “I wanted to be an athlete and do music and Syracuse jumped out to me.”
He said finally visiting the university was “surreal” to him.
“It hit me when I touched the ground here. It’s become full circle for me,” Richardson told WSYR. “As a kid, I wanted to come here, but quite honestly, I didn’t know if I would come out of prison.”
As detailed in filmmaker Ava DuVernay’s miniseries “When They See Us,” Richardson ended up spending 5½ years behind bars before DNA evidence exonerated the Central Park Five.
Justice Charles Tejada of the Supreme Court of the State of New York vacated the thirteen-year-old convictions Dec. 19, 2002, after a confession from a serial rapist, Matias Reyes, and positive DNA match.
After filing a lawsuit against the city of New York, prosecutors and police officers, the men settled the civil case for $41 million dollars in 2014.
“The story has been around for 30 years, and even before that, and the same thing is still happening,” Richardson told ABC News. “So I think kids now are very eager to do something.”
Syracuse student Jalen Nash petitioned the university to award an honorary degree to Richardson ahead of his visit.
It reached more than 5,985 signatures of a goal to hit 7,500 by 4:30 p.m. Friday.
“In a recent interview with Oprah Winfrey, Kevin told the audience about his young dream of attending Syracuse University,” Nash wrote in the petition. “While this dream could never be fulfilled due to circumstance, it is never too late to do the right thing.”