Where Are They Now

Presented by

Where Are They Now: Jim Richards

Catch Up with the Jets Legend and 1968 Draft Pick from Virginia Tech

E_SZR53977-2020-cuts-1

The NFL Draft Days of yesteryear were a little bit different.

There were no live television broadcasts. The picks weren't instantly evaluated. No, when Jim Richards was chosen by the Jets in 1968, the news came by way of a hallway telephone in his Virginia Tech dormitory.

"I came back from class, and a guy on the hall telephone said, 'Hey Jim, you've got a call here. Some guy named Ewbanks.' I said, 'Oh, let me take that call,'" Richards laughed.

"When I picked up the phone to talk to Weeb, he said, 'Hey Jim, we've drafted you and want you to come play with us.' We talked about the bonus and arrangements to get me up there to New York. It was a complete surprise, a pleasant surprise."

The defensive back's at journey to join the Jets for training camp wasn't as simple as just catching a flight to New York.

"I was in the corps of engineers at Virginia Tech, and I had a two-year contract. So when I graduated, I was supposed to go into the Army," Richards said. "I didn't finish my degree on time. I was in civil engineering and playing football, and so I didn't take a full load on purpose because I just couldn't get it all done.

"So when I got drafted, the military cadre at Virginia Tech basically allowed me to go and try out for the Jets, and deferred me when I made the team from getting drafted into the Army because I made a commitment to come back to school after the season was over and finish my degree."

The Jets finished the season with an 11-3 record and beat Oakland in the AFL Championship Game. That meant they would meet the NFL Champion Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III.

And again, Richard's journey wasn't as simple as just catching a flight to Miami for the game.

"On my way down to the Super Bowl, I went through Blacksburg (Virginia) and registered for classes," Richards said. "I was going to be two weeks late getting to class because of the Super Bowl, and I had to go around to all my teachers and get their permission and their help. Most of them were great helping me. I can remember my electrical theory teacher looking at me and saying, 'Jim, I've heard them all now, buddy, I've heard them all.'"

Backing up Joe Namath's guarantee, Richards and the Jets upset the Colts, 16-7.

"We were big underdogs, but we felt pretty comfortable looking at the game films, that if we played our game, we could play with them and that we could win," Richards said. "We were like a big family, and we still are like a big family when we get back together. But I had to pinch myself. I said, 'Am I really here?'

"But it was a great experience. I can't express it better than that. We played on a Sunday and that following Wednesday; I was sitting in class in Blacksburg trying to catch up."

Receiving another deferment which allowed him to play the following season, Richards started nine games at strong safety and collected three interceptions. The Jets posted a 10-4 record and were back in the playoffs.

"My last game was against Kansas City in December. They beat us and went on to win Super Bowl IV," Richards said. "That was in December (20) of 1969, and on February 1, 1970, I was sitting at Fort Belvoir, Virginia, in the Army."

Assigned to the West Point Prep School, Richards taught math and was an assistant football coach.

"Almost all of students were kids who had been over to Vietnam and been assigned to the prep school. Most of them wanted to get into West Point and become future military officers," Richards said. "It was a humbling experience to be around those guys. I learned a lot from them. Probably more from them than they learned from me.

"In my second year, I got my orders to Vietnam, and my first wife was expecting our daughter, Christy, a week after I was supposed to leave town. The commanding officer at Fort Belvoir went to bat for me and got my orders postponed until after Christy was born.

"And then I received my new orders, and when they reissued my new orders, thank God, they were starting to pull people out of Vietnam. And so, rather than going to Vietnam, I got orders to South Korea."

There for a year, Richards returned in October 1971, and rejoined the Jets. Not as a player, but more so as a practice player and an assistant to linebackers/defensive backs coach Walt Michaels.

Following the season, he returned to Virginia Tech to work on his master's degree in civil environmental engineering.

"When I tried back out with the Jets (in 1972), I made it to the very end, and Weeb treated me well. He came to me and says, 'Jimmy, we don't have room for you, but there are a lot of people who would like to have you. You played in the Super Bowl and you've got experience and you played well. If you want me to trade you somewhere else…' I said, 'Weeb, no. I've got a daughter. I'm in graduate school. I appreciate you offering, but I'm going to go back and get my degree and start working as an engineer.' And that's what I did," Richards said.

"I got my degree and ended up working for a fairly large company and then set up my own company in Virginia Beach for about six years. And then I sold out to a bigger company, Michael Baker Corporation, and became a regional manager for southern half the country and had 1,000 people in 26 offices.

"I left them and went to work for another very large company, AECOM, and was the mid-Atlantic region manager for them until I retired about three years ago."

Enjoying retirement with his wife, Linda, they make their home in Virginia Beach. The father of three: Christy, Mark, and Jason; Richards has four grandchildren, with a fifth on its way.

Advertising