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Posted 24 Jul 2001   For week ended June 29, 2001
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Sent on Mormon-News: 02Jul01

By Mark Wright

Golden Richard's Tragic NFL Career And Recovery

SALT LAKE CITY, UTAH -- Remember what they say, "Be careful what you wish for because you just may get it." Never was this more true than in the case of Golden Richards, former professional football player. From the time he was a little boy, Richards dreamed of playing for the Dallas Cowboys of the NFL. He dreamed of glory on the field and fame and celebrity off the field. And, after many years of hard work and practice, Richards found himself living his dream. He became a celebrity hero on America's Team, the Dallas Cowboys. He caught a touchdown pass in a Super Bowl win. He went out on a date with Olivia Newton-John and rubbed shoulders with beautiful women like supermodel Jerry Hall.

However, along with the bright lights and the fame and the fortune, Richards sadly and painfully discovered that "all that glitters is not gold." Like many others before him, Richards moved into the fast lane of life as a professional athlete/celebrity and experienced all of the darkness that can exist in that world. He accidentally overdosed on codeine and Percodan. He abused all kinds of substances and eventually became a drug addict and an alcoholic. He went through three divorces. After he left football, he became chronically unemployed and was arrested for forging his father's checks as a means of obtaining more drugs. How could something so good turn so bad?

Raised in an family of faithful Latter-day Saints, Richards grew up under the watchful eye of his mother and his father and enjoyed life with his six siblings. During his prep career at Granite High School in Salt Lake City, Utah, Richards became a star in football, basketball, track, tennis, and baseball. Heavily recruited by many different colleges, Richards had decided to attend the University of Utah when his Bishop called him into his office and told Richards that he had to attend BYU or serve a mission. Richards chose to attend BYU.

While at BYU, Richards led the nation in punt return yardage and set seven NCAA records before transferring to Hawaii for his senior year. After college, Richards' dream came true when the Dallas Cowboys selected him in the second round of the NFL draft, making him the happiest man alive. "What an incredible feeling," he says. "It was one of those emotions you can't manufacture and you can never match. When I walked into the locker room for the first time, I was standing there next to Bob Lilly, Jethro Pugh and Roger Staubach. I wanted to get everybody's autograph."

While at Dallas, Richards developed into a starter and was on the field when the Cowboys won the Super Bowl in 1978, catching a touchdown pass from fullback Robert Newhouse. After reaching the pinnacle of success, it was all downhill from there. Literally. Richards succumbed to the excesses of stardom and spiraled out of control, eventually landing out of the NFL and out of the mainstream of life. Richards can look back on his life and see the mistakes that he made. He clearly understands that he paid a high price for his fast-track lifestyle. "There were times when I lived through the darkest dark you can imagine," Richards says. "With the painkillers, you fight and struggle to get up to ground zero, but then you discover you're still 150 miles below the surface of the earth. They were the last thing you thought about before falling asleep at night, and the first thing you thought about in the morning."

Now, decades removed from his football prime, Richards is trying to move his life back onto firmer footing by concentrating on the most important thing in his life, his two boys. After years of struggling to find a reason for living, Richards has evolved into a devoted father whose life revolves around his children. Goldie, 7, and Jordan, 4 stay with their father in a basement apartment in Holladay. Richards does the things that all fathers long to do with their boys. He takes them fishing. He wrestles with them and tickles them. He rides bikes and goes hiking with them.

And through it all, Richards tries to stay away from the demons that haunted his former existence. He knows that, at long last, he has something real to hold onto, something to live for. "Those boys are the most important thing in the world to me," he says. "Tonight, the last thing I'll think about when I go to bed is them. And when I wake up in the morning, they will be the first thing I think about, too. After everything that has happened, I can't tell you how right that feels. That feels so, so good. Finally, I'm a happy man."

Now that he's found a new direction, maybe Richards will finally be able to enjoy the golden lining in the dark cloud of his life.


A Golden Lining
Salt Lake Tribune 25Jun01 S2
By Gordon Monson: The Salt Lake Tribune


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