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
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
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
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