Feature story

Former NFL fullback Tony Richardson
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    I had the opportunity to speak with Tony Richardson as part of my internship with Auburn Athletics. This feature story was written as part of a "then and now" piece.
A grown man’s job: From the NFL to giving back

Tony Richardson, a former Auburn and NFL fullback, is used to success on the field. He was the second true freshman to start for Coach Pat Dye while at Auburn and went on to have a 17-year NFL career. Having blocked for 1,000-yard rushers in nine consecutive seasons, he is considered one of the best fullbacks in NFL history. Even though he has had a tremendous playing career, one that includes three Pro Bowls and a “Whizzer” White NFL Man of the Year award, Richardson has a vision to give back.

“I still consider myself young,” said Richardson. “I enjoy philanthropy and giving back to the community. I do a lot of charity work and to be in the position to give back. Maybe one day I’ll try coaching, but for now I want to try and help kids get an education.”

Richardson credits his educational background for propelling him into his post-NFL career. He received his bachelor’s degree in education from Auburn and has an MBA in finance from Webster University. He gained valuable professional and personal skills while playing football, and he shares that he still follows Coach Dye’s advice to this day.

“Before every game, Coach Dye would tell us, ‘Any mistake you make belong to me,’ and to go out and play as hard as we can,” shares Richardson. “We worked so hard to prepare for the games and put ourselves in the position to be successful. It’s okay if it doesn’t work out, because we gave 100% to everything. I don’t have to hang my head. That’s how I look at life now.”

Richardson first visited Auburn as a recruit in 1989 and attended the Iron Bowl that year—the first time Auburn played Alabama at Auburn. Having seen Tiger Walk that year and then participating in it the following years when he attended school here, it quickly became his favorite tradition. He thinks of it was a way to thank the fans for supporting them every Saturday morning.

He grew to love the college atmosphere during, what he considers, the best four years of his life. He went undrafted in 1994, but he signed with the Dallas Cowboys. This minor setback only motivated him. He was ready to show he was different and work twice as hard as the next guy. He shared that playing at Auburn prepared him for the next level, because he was used to playing in extreme conditions. It was a different level of competition, however. He was playing against athletes who had been in the league for 10 years and considered it a “grown man’s job.”

“[Auburn] tested our mind, bodies and spirits. When I got to the NFL, people playing against an Auburn player or with an Auburn player knew we’d give 100%. I was very proud about it,” said Richardson.

Richard played for the Cowboys for one year before going on to play for the Kansas City Chiefs for 11 years. He then went on to play for the Minnesota Vikings and New York Jets before retiring after the 2010 season.

He took a year off to debrief and relax before starting the next phase of his career. He dabbled in television in New York City, and he currently works for NFL Legend. He helps players transition from the league to a more normal life.

“It’s a passion,” shares Richardson. “I really found my life’s calling. Even when I was playing, I was always trying to talk to different guys about different things. Now I can do it on a bigger stage and help players.”

His next goal is just staying on the same path and making himself more available to his family and friends. He also wants to give back to different charities and stay involved with philanthropies. In five years, he wants to be able to look back and know he made a serious dent in a young man’s life by helping them become successful.