Rich Richardson’s phenomenal prep career was defined by championships. And now he’s a member of MRA’s Hall of Fame — by Billy Watkins


Billy Watkins

He was neither the biggest nor the fastest. If you had picked a side without knowing anything about him, he wouldn’t have been the first pick.

This makes Rich Richardson’s story all the more amazing.

he was a good athlete he’s really good He was strong and as tough as they came, with the will to bend steel to win, a rare instinct he couldn’t coach, and parents – Don and Marie – who encouraged him and believed in him. was also a high school coach and had the basics. His sisters, Angela and Jessica, were his most ardent fans.

The sum of the elements made for greatness, shining brightest in the most important moments of the most important games.

Rich entered Madison Ridgeland Academy in sixth grade when his father was named principal. I knew what the school was getting me. During his two years, I was one of his football, basketball and baseball coaches, along with Rich’s father and his brother his WG.

It’s a small thing, but I can’t forget it. In his senior year, he was inbounding the ball during basketball games. As he threw the ball in, a defender hit it back to Rich. Instead of catching or deflecting it, as most players used to do, Lich quickly dodged it. rice field.

i saw my brother I asked.

He chuckled and replied… “rich”.

During one baseball season, the pitcher-catcher, Rich asked WG.

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Rich was inducted into the MRA Hall of Fame last weekend, along with former basketball stars Dawn Chisholm Jalow (Delta) and Brent Roberts (Air Force).

In Rich’s first year at the MRA, Don asked me to coach 6th grade football. The year before last, the MRA didn’t let him win a single game as his fifth year. There were good athletes, good kids in that class. They needed someone to say, “Follow me.” That someone was rich.

The sixth grade team went undefeated as Rich played quarterback and middle linebacker. Since then, that class has been on a mission.

Fast forward six years to 1992 and Rich’s senior season begins. Prep and JA have long dominated the private school league. But Rich’s group was tutored by the legendary Jack Carlisle (who is also a member of the MRA Hall of Fame and several others) and was improving every year.

After defeating Prep 28-14 in the final game of the regular season, the MRA faced them again two weeks later for the state championship. Rich spoke at a pep rally that morning. he said: Let them sleep tonight. ”

On Prep’s home field, Rich ran 21 yards for a touchdown late in the fourth quarter to seal a 21-7 win and the school’s first football state championship. The Patriots finished 12-0 with him. Rich scored his 30th touchdown that season, and as the first safety he intercepted six passes.

Three months later, the MRA won its first all-around men’s basketball title, defeating Prep 64-60. Rich led the team in his game of the championship with his 22 points, and in the final minutes he sank 12 of his free throws.

The 5-foot-10, 190-pound Rich was also a standout in baseball, finishing fifth in the state in home runs and third in doubles. The Patriots won state baseball championships and achieved the rare triple crown of football, basketball, and baseball state titles in the same grade.

In all three sports, Rich was named All-State clarion leisure Selected to play in the Miss Private School All-Star Game. He also won the Don Souder Award as Mississippi’s best private school athlete.

But Rich was more than just an athlete. he played the piano He was a student of his A and won a full Ole Miss. scholarship. The Army, Navy, Air Force, and several Ivy schools in his league recruited him as a football player.

He chose to attend Ole Miss.

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Rich died of natural causes on June 1, 2021 at the age of 47. Don and I spoke on the phone or via messenger many times over the next few days and weeks.

One night in September, I got a call from Don. He said he had a letter from Director Carlyle.

“But how…?” I asked.

“I know,” Don said. “I couldn’t believe it.”

Coach Carlyle died at his home in New Albany in July at the age of 91, 56 days after Rich. The letter was postmarked days before Coach died.

“Apparently it got lost in the mail and showed up today,” Don said.

Appropriately, it arrived on a Friday during football season.

don’t read it to me You often have to pause and compose yourself.

Director Carlyle wrote that he tried many times to find the right words to express how devastated he was by Rich’s death.

The coach told Don there was something he wanted to know. In his 61 years of coaching, he has been fortunate to work with dozens of outstanding athletes, including some of the greatest athletes the state of Mississippi has ever produced.

“But every coach has one generational player that stands out above all others,” the coach wrote.

Don cried when he finished reading. He was overwhelmed by his coach’s words and the fact that he had made time to write them while he was dying.

Sadly, Don was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer two months later and passed away on November 29th at the age of 79.

Thank God he knew.

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