Jan 102014

The Golden Years

golden-richardsGolden Richards. He was the golden boy of the golden era of Dallas Cowboys football, when Cowboys were kings and America paid homage to her Team.

He had the coolest name and the blondest hair. He was a blur on the football field, and the perfect complement to the great Drew Pearson.

I was 12 years old in 1973 when he landed on the Cowboys’ roster. It did not take long for him to become one of my favorite personalities on a team full of personality.

Golden Richards never caught more than 28 balls in a single season. His biggest year for yardage and touchdowns was 1974, when he caught 26 passes for 467 and five touchdowns. But that was a different time and those were pretty good numbers for a number two receiver.

Richards’ biggest moment came in January, 1978. It was Super Bowl XII against the Denver Broncos and their “Orange Crush” defense. In the fourth quarter, the Cowboys had the ball first and 10 on the Broncos’ 29 yard line. Tom Landry called a play that shocked his players. It was a fullback pass. Robert Newhouse would run left (he was right handed), pull up, and throw a pass to Golden Richards. The play had been practiced numerous time and had never worked.

But on that day of days, with the game in the balance and Cowboys ready to seal the Broncos’ fate, it did work. Newhouse hit Richards for a 29 yard touchdown. The Cowboys were world champions. It was Richards’ finest hour. The man from Salt Lake, with the golden locks and the vibrant personality, had forever etched his name into Super Bowl lore.


Fool’s Gold

Whatever became of Golden Richards? Where is he now?

Like so many of our gridiron heroes, life after football has been anything but golden for Richards.

The Digital Universe, an online publication of Richards’ alma mater, Brigham Young University, has a great article detailing the after-football life of Gold Richards.

Here is part of that article:

To look at him today, it’s hard to believe his shaking hands once caught a touchdown in Super Bowl X. His trademark blonde hair has now faded to brown. Divorce, drug abuse, Parkinson’s disease and disassociation with the NFL have taken him to hell and back.

The drugs have ravaged his body, but it was those vicious hits, game in and game out, that doctors now believe are the cause of his Parkinson’s. He was diagnosed 15 months ago.

But Richards is still fighting, ready to move on, ready to outsmart his demons the same way he used to blow past defenders.

If only escaping his past could be as easy as running, one of those natural abilities that is now just a memory. It was Cowboys player Bob Hayes, “the fastest man who ever lived,” whom Richards chose to honor while playing at BYU. He wore Hayes’ number 22 during his two-year football career. But while in the NFL, even Richards couldn’t run fast enough to escape the pain of taking hits, both in practice and during games. Eventually the hurt was too much for him, and he turned each Sunday to percodan, a prescription drug that would bring him some relief and help him get ready for “show time.”

“I’ve made my mistakes, and I’ve owned up to them,” Richards said.

Eventually, he cleaned himself up. He did it for himself, but mostly, he said, for his two boys, who are from his third marriage. The drugs cost Richards his first two marriages. The third marriage didn’t last either, but he has his boys, ages 19 and 16, and they mean everything to him. They are the two good things that came from so many other mistakes.

“What did it cost me? A lot. To get those two boys of mine I would do the same stuff over and over again. They’ve made everything worth it,” he said.

Born and raised in Salt Lake City, Richards, now a resident of Murray, lives with his two sons, Goldie (19) and Jordan (16), whom he credits for the reason he can be so optimistic about his future.

“The love for a child is indescribable for me,” Richards said. “In life the only thing that matters for me is Goldie and Jordan, alive and smiling and doing the right thing.”

See more at: http://universe.byu.edu/2013/02/05/golden-richards/#sthash.cm41KNOz.dpuf

The brutal beating one takes on the football field took its toll on Richards, body and mind. It broke him.

Like the rest of us, he is a broken man. Like far too few of us, he is on the mend.

May the sun shine on his golden years and may Cowboys fans remain forever grateful for the golden years he gave us.