How having a dad in the military crafted Tony Richardson into one of the greatest fullbacks in NFL history

Under the guidance of a military father, Tony Richardson developed a bulletproof mindset strong enough to take him to the top of the NFL mountain.

During a recent trip to the Royal Air Force Lakenheath, the legendary sportsman attended the first annual UK Armed Forces (UKAF) flag football match against the US Visiting Forces (USVS), where he was rendered stunned by the inspirational group of individuals, embodying sportsmanship and camaraderie.

Being around such a talented group of athletes from both sides of the Atlantic, gave Richardson an opportunity to reflect on his own road to footballing superstardom.

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Tony Richardson is the son of a Vietnam veteran

While the towering sportsman utilised his remarkable skills to win the ‘Whizzer’ White NFL Man of the Year Award at the New York Jets, it was really his mindset that separated him from the pack.

With a will to overcome all obstacles placed in his path, Richardson was renowned as one of the most fearsome competitors on the planet. However, he may not have been that way without the man who raised him.

In an exclusive interview with Sporf, the icon explained: I attribute everything to my parents. My dad served our country for 32 years and was a Vietnam vet — Purple Heart. So, I was actually born in Germany. I spent the majority of my upbringing there.”

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He continued: “So, I was born in Frankfurt, lived there for two years, El Paso, Texas, for three, back to Germany for three, Fort Knox, Kentucky, where I fell in love with horses. Then it was Kentucky Derby for three, and then back to Germany and finally Alabama.

“My dad retired as a Sergeant Major. My sister followed in his footsteps, and she served our country for 28 years and had four deployments. It has helped me a lot. I have OCD. People are like, ‘Why is everything in your house so organised? Why do you have containers here? Tony, why do you take a bucket of bleach with a toothbrush and clean your baseboards every Saturday? Why is your closet colour-coordinated? Why did you train your dog at 9:00 PM to take his toys and put them back in the box’? Those kinds of things helped me and made me into the person I am today. I wouldn’t change any of them.”

Tony Richardson has a special place in his heart for the military

Raised by a father who dedicated his life to his country, Richardson always has time to chat with anyone following a similar path, recently bumping into a 21-year-old dealing with over a billion dollars worth of planes.

The ex-football star explained: “We were on a base, and we got a chance to see some pretty cool planes, like F45s. One of the pilots introduced me to a kid, who was one of their top mechanics.

“So, I’m talking to him, and I was like, ‘How old are you’? He replied, ’21’. I said, ‘Do you know this plane is worth $100 million? On this row alone, there’s twelve of these, so there’s $1.2 billion in planes, and they are entrusted to you’?”

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He added: “I started talking to him, and I was blown away. So, to see these young men and women, who are so brilliant and smart and serving our country is cool and encouraging.

“There was one female, who was a 26-year-old pilot. And within four years, she’ll be a four-star general. I thought I’d accomplished a lot in life, but I did nothing.”

Tony Richardson has dedicated his post-playing days to helping others

While many athletes like to enjoy the fruits of their labour, Richardson has never forgotten where he came from, taking example from the man who brought him up, to go above and beyond to help other people.

The 52-year-old explained: “I’ve tried to replicate what I saw from my dad at a young age. When he was a drill sergeant, we would have Thanksgiving table dinner. There would be ten people at the table. I had no idea who they were, but they were all soldiers. At Christmas, if we wanted a toy, we would have to give one away. So, at an early age, I learnt the importance of giving back.

“98% of my days now are centred around philanthropy. I sit on the board of the Special Olympics, Autism Speaks and United Way. My life is fundraising and helping people from marginalised communities.”

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Furthermore, the sporting titan recently attended the Jets vs Bears Championship Flag event, where he offered his time to the 12-14 year old girls who hope to one day emulate his success.

The Kansas City Chiefs Ring of Honour member beamed: “My track to the NFL was very unlikely. Being born in Germany, we didn’t have American football. So, to see these young ladies have this chance is amazing. Flag is a great sport. There are so many opportunities. These young women can get scholarships. They are getting some exercise. I’ve seen a lot of them running, and I think they can outrun me!”

Featured Image Credit: Getty