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Former coach a living legend

When sports fans attend a Farmington High School football game, they walk under a large sign that reads "Richardson Field."

The field is named in honor of Jack Richardson — a giant in Black Knight gridiron history. Coach Richardson served as high school football coach from 1966 to 1980 and then moved to the position of middle school principal, a post he held until his retirement in 1993.

Although he hasn't been a part of the Farmington School District staff for 28 years, Richardson’s influence remains strong. To this day, the former coach can be spotted at school athletic events or on the high school campus where he is instantly recognized by many.

For example, as Richardson passed through the doors of the high school last week, long-time substitute teacher Becky Noble came up and gave him a hug. After posing for a photo with Richardson, Noble said, “I worked for the Daily Journal as a sports writer and covered Coach Richardson’s football games. He was always helpful at making sure that I had what I needed for my articles.

"I went to what is now called Missouri State and was getting ready to graduate. He called and wanted to know if I wanted to do a maternity leave for his P.E. teacher, Coach Eaves, for six weeks. I subbed for the rest of the year, and then a couple of jobs came open the next year. I took the high school job and started coaching.

“She likes that track and field,” Richardson said.

Walking down a corridor where plaques of notable Farmington alumni are on display, the retired coach pointed to a plaque honoring Ray Detring, a graduate who played football for Farmington.

“He had the biggest hands I've ever seen,” he said. “He went to the University of Missouri and played for at least two years. Somehow, his father and the coach at the time didn’t get along, so he didn’t go back — or that was the story I got. He was a starter up there, big raw-boned guy and really a nice person, too.”

Richardson was born in 1940 and grew up in the small northwest Missouri town of Cameron.

“We had a small high school of less than 300,” he said. “We played all the sports. I had great coaching. Cameron has always been a football town. When I was a senior, there were five of us moving on to college. Several of them moved on to coaching like I did.

“I didn’t play as a freshman. We went for three straight years and didn’t lose a game. They didn’t have any playoffs. That’s what those good athletes will do for you. After I graduated, the next class finally got beat late in their next season.”

Richardson also played basketball and ran track during high school. He had high aspirations after high school. Richardson was going to continue in sports.

“I was a ‘whopping’ 5 feet 11 inches, and maybe 165 pounds at the time,” he said. “I wanted to go to college and play football in college. I wasn’t very fast. They offered me a walk-on at Kansas State. There wasn’t a whole lot of money in the program and coaching was pedestrian at best. They didn’t see me as much of an athlete.”

Richardson scored two touchdowns as a running back in his sophomore year and then racked up another two his junior year. He played some during his senior year, but had to miss several games due to injuries and finished up his college sports career running track.

Richardson worked a year as assistant football coach at Warrensburg while obtaining his master’s degree from the University of Missouri, and then worked three years as an assistant football and track coach at Lindbergh High School in St. Louis. After moving to Farmington, the school superintendent, Dr. B. Ray Henry, contacted Richardson for an interview and the board hired him as high school football coach.

When Richardson began coaching football in 1966, he didn’t have many players to work with.

“I had about 30 varsity players,” he said. “We had eight seniors, but four of those guys had never played football before. But, I had two freshmen who were the best I ever had. One was a back and one was a lineman.

"I would not let the back play in the varsity games — he might lose his interest in football. You get pounded on, that’s not much fun. The other kid, I couldn’t keep him out of the game. He was so quick and tough.”

For Richardson, there were all kind of issues to contend with when starting his tenure as coach. At that time, the games were held at Wilson-Rozier Park. With other events being held at the park, it created some problems in getting ready for game day.

“The high school principal called me into the office and said ‘You realize you’re going to have to mark the field?’” Richardson said. “Before that, they just had the county fair there.

"I had to take the P.E. classes over there by bus every day and pick up the glass and everything. I went along with that. The worst part of was, we started handing out the game equipment. We didn’t have enough jerseys alike to put on the whole squad. Talk about a ragtag outfit.”

The first season was a trying one for Richardson and his team, however, he started making his mark in the area with his coaching skills.

“Crystal City and Herculaneum had been the powerhouses," he said. "We played Crystal City the first game. They beat us by a touchdown. The next game, we go to Herculaneum. They beat us by a touchdown. The first two games we were competitive.

"The kids started buying into that. After that first year, we went 3-4 seasons undefeated. We got to be the powerhouse. We maintained that, but we didn’t win all the time. My teams knew that when we went to the games, we were going to play.”

By the end of his first season at Farmington High School, Richardson had garnered strong support within the community and school district.

“[Superintendent] Ray Henry called me and said, ‘Jack, before next year, you buy whatever you want.’”

Coach Richardson instituted a number of "JR" (Jack Richardson) rules for his players.

“I had some crazy rules," he said. "I had an outstanding running back that [later] played at Rolla. He had a motorcycle and he lays it over on the ground and burns his leg. He’s out. I put in a ‘JR’ rule. If you want to ride a motorcycle, you’re giving up football. We’re not going to work our butts off out here and you do something frivolous and waste it. I had parents that thought it was terrible and actually it was to their benefit that I was trying to keep them safe.

“Other ‘JR’ rules were no smoking and drinking. I had one kid from Doe Run that started and practiced a week or so. I liked him, he had a good personality. I was sitting at my desk, he comes in and said something. I looked up at him and he had a package of cigarettes in his pocket. I said to him ‘I hate this in the worst way, but I can’t pass on that.' Clean your gear out.”

For his last two-and-a-half years as coach, Richardson took on the job of assistant principal at the high school. He didn't care for it, and so when the middle school principal resigned, Richardson moved to that position and gave up coaching. After all the years he'd spent in sports, it was not an easy transition.

“I still liked the kids,” he said. “I could chew on them one minute and then pat them on the butt the next minute and they responded. I felt like at the end, I grew weary of practicing. I was still around kids [at the middle school], but I didn’t have that influence.”

The first two years of Richardson’s tenure as middle school principal was spent in the old high school building, located at the present location of the Truman Learning Center's parking lot. He was the first principal of the new middle school and served in that position until his retirement in 1993, having completed 30 years in the Farmington School District. For the next 15 years, Richardson sold sporting goods.

After talking about his years as a coach and principal, Richardson began talking about his son Kyle, an outstanding punter in the NFL who helped win Super Bowl XXXV for the Baltimore Ravens.

“He only punted half a year in high school,” Richardson said. “That was because the guy that was the punter hurt his leg. The coach said ‘Hey, you’re going to be our punter.’ He took it and did the best he could at the time without having any background on it.”

According to Richardson, while his son had practiced place kicking field goals since he was 12, but hadn't spent time improving his punting skills. After high school, Kyle attended Arkansas State University as a red-shirt walk-on. By the end of the year he worried that he wasn’t good enough. Richardson put his ‘coaching hat’ back on and helped Kyle train.

“Punting is a skill that takes repetition,” he said. “It’s over and over and over. You’re hitting a moving target, the football does not stay still when you take your hands off of it. It’s very difficult. There are all kinds of factors.”

In Kyle’s second year as a walk-on, he attended a camp where a player attending ASU on a football scholarship was punting. The player eventually quit and that’s when Richardson's son began to blossom.

“From that point, he just got better and better,” Richardson said.

When Kyle graduated from college, he spent a year working with a punting coach in Florida and ultimately spent 10 years playing for several NFL teams. He was not, however, the first in his family to play in the NFL.

That honor goes to his dad.

After college, Richardson signed a contract with the Dallas Texans, the team that later became the Kansas City Chiefs. He played in some preseason games but ended up being cut.

“I tried out and made it for a while, but I would not have been able to physically survive for long,” he said. “I did make it to the last cut. Football is really a tough game. You have to really be a tough guy and you have to have the will to do it.”

Richardson still feels some regret for his decision to end his coaching career to become a principal.

“I did get weary,” he said. “I feel to this day that I should have stayed in that role. I had a really strong base of guys that played football for me. I think that I helped them become adults and live like adults.”

Mark Marberry is a reporter for the Farmington Press and Daily Journal. He can be reached at 573-518-3629, or at mmarberry@farmingtonpressonline.com

"I had a really strong base of guys that played football for me. I think that I helped them become adults and live like adults." – Jack Richardson

Jack Richardson on the boys he coached
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