Photo courtesy of Laurel Austin
NFL Former Player, Tony Richardson
God Driven Life Makes Him a Champion On and Off the Field
Tony Richardson spent his early childhood in Frankfurt, Germany, where his father was stationed in the U.S. Army. What the other children there called football was the sport Americans call soccer; the only American football he saw was on television until his family moved back to the U.S. when he was in seventh grade.
Tony did not even start playing football until high school. On his first day, he secretly studied the other players gearing up, to see how to put on his pads. Despite proving himself a talented running back, he knew that no one in his small Alabama town had ever received a Division One scholarship, and his odds were slim of being the first.
Tony was not deterred from the quest to get a college scholarship, and he succeeded in being accepted by Auburn University. Once there, his sense of resolve again saw him through, and he gathered his strength to become the second running back ever to start as a freshman. (Bo Jackson was the first.)
The great success he enjoyed as a college football player seemed to assure that he would be drafted by the NFL, but when it came time for the draft pick, he was passed over. “God,” he prayed, feeling devastated, “if this is what you call me to do, you’ve got to make a way because what I have been doing hasn’t worked.”
As a free agent, Tony was eventually invited by the Dallas Cowboys to their training camp. He did not make the team, but was put on the practice squad. Even today, after completing his seventeenth season, Tony continues to be inspired by what happened to him. “Every day, you have to prove yourself,” he says.
God is still a very strong presence in Tony’s life. “I get up each day with a smile on my face because it isn’t about me, it is about Him,” Tony says. “I cast everything over to God.” His faith gives him the ability to live with a sense of freedom because he recognizes that much of what happens in life is out of his control. He also feels less attached to material things. “All the stuff can be gone tomorrow. My faith, and God’s presence, is the only constant I have.”
Tony went on to play for the Kansas City Chiefs and the Minnesota Vikings before landing with the New York Jets. Numerous awards and accolades have punctuated his career. In 2003, he was named Pro Football’s Weekly’s “Arthur S. Arkush Humanitarian of the Year” and was voted an “NFL Good Guy” in 2002, 2003, and 2004 by The Sporting News based on civic responsibility and character. In 2005, Tony received the Distinguished Citizen Award from the National Conference for Community and Justice, an organization dedicated to fighting bias, bigotry and racism. He was selected by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to the six-member Player’s Advisory Committee in Spring 2007, and in 2008 was named Walter Payton Man of the Year for the Jets. In 2010, Tony was named the Jets Man of the Year and won the NFLPA’s Byron “Whizzer” White award.
Off the field, Tony dedicates his free time to helping others. Through his Rich in Spirit Foundation, http://www.dictionaryproject.org/sponsor/profile/507 Tony sponsors The Dictionary Project, which promotes literacy and education. He hosted the Special Olympics Punt, Pass and Kick competition in Kansas City annually, from 1999 to 2005. The foundation was created “to extend a helping hand and uplift the lives and spirits of individuals who society has turned their back on.”
“It is great to be an inspiring football player, to be a Hall of Fame Pro Bowler or to win a Super Bowl, but it is most important to invest in yourself, invest in your future with education,” says Tony, who received a bachelor’s degree in education from Auburn in 2000 and a master’s degree in business from Webster University in 2004. Through the NFL Entrepreneurship program, Tony has taken classes at the Wharton School of Business and Northwestern’s Kellogg School.
Insatiable in his thirst for knowledge, Tony especially loves reading about people overcoming challenges and obstacles in their search for success. “Anyone can learn from mistakes and failure by asking, ‘How can I turn this into something positive?’ Never allow anyone to tell you that you can’t do anything,” Tony advises. “Often, the people who tell you that you can’t do something are the same people who can’t visualize themselves doing something great, or they may not be willing to make the sacrifice.”
Tony’s father, Sergeant Major Ben Richardson, is the person he admires the most. “He got up every day at three or four a.m. to polish his boots and never complained.” His father taught him to give one hundred percent to anything he does and it set the stage for his future accomplishments. “Dad always said, ‘If it is worth doing, it’s worth doing right.’ This is what I tell young people.”
Today, Tony tells kids to look at athletes as role models, but to also have role models closer to home, such as parents, teachers, coaches, aunts, uncles, and even older kids. He has made it a high priority to serve as a positive influence for other players in the NFL, helping them to make good decisions and maximize their playing time.
Tony faced a lot of negativity from people who said he could not make it to the NFL, but he never gave up and eventually reached his goal. He was supported by a strong, loving family who taught him to work to the best of his ability. He found strength through his faith in God, and he found inspiration in the lives of successful people who overcame challenges in their lives. Tony is a truly remarkable role model who lives his life with integrity. He is indeed an extraordinary Insightful Player® team member.
Instant replay of Tony Richardson’s guiding principles:
As long as you work hard and do the right thing, good things will happen for you.
Set a goal and go for it! Find something you are passionate about no matter what it is and become great at it. Opportunities will show up once you are committed to your goal.
Surround yourself with positive people. Don’t let negative people tell you that you cannot do something.
Use athletes as role models, but also find mentors closer to home, including parents, teachers, coaches, relatives, and religious leaders.
Find inspiration from the lives of successful people who have faced and overcome challenges.
Advance through education. Read books, go to school, and keep a dictionary with you at all times so you can learn new words.
Trust in God. Have faith that God will take care of you in good and bad times. This will free you up to feel the joy of life. Don’t be attached to material things. They don’t last.
Get rid of the distractions in your life that tempt you away from being great.
The Insightful Player® series is brought to you by Coach Chrissy Carew, Hall of Fame Master Certified Personal and Business Coach and Author of her newly released book, INSIGHTFUL PLAYER: Football Pros Lead A Bold Movement of Hope. Chrissy has been deeply inspired by her father, the late Coach Walter Carew, Sr. Her father is in several Halls of Fame as a high school football coach and baseball coach (as well as high school and college athlete). He used sports to help kids build strong character and teach them valuable life skills. The Insightful Player® initiative was created to help make our world a much better place by inspiring youth. To contact Chrissy Carew visit http://www.insightfulplayer.com or call 603-897-0610.
©2011 Insightful Player, LLC
Tony Richardson is a valued member of the Insightful Player® team. To be named to this team, one must be a person of integrity, such as a current or former NFL player, who shares their personal message of hope for the sole purpose of lifting the spirits of all, especially children.