Willie Richardson has had a lot of great moments in his life.
Consider the Clarksdale native’s body of work:
-An All-Pro receiver with the Baltimore Colts who played in one of the NFL’s most memorable Super Bowls
• Inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame
• Inducted into the National High School Sports Hall of Fame
• A three-time All-SWAC flanker/safety and two-time NAIA All-American at then-Jackson State College
• The first African American player to perform with the South squad in the Blue-Gray College All-Star Game in 1962
And now, you can add country club owner to the list.
Along with Butch Dickson and his son, Colby, Richardson is a principal owner of Brookwood Byram Country Club in South Jackson.
“Butch (Dickson) has put together a great staff, inside and out, and the golf course is really taking shape,” said Richardson, who also serves the club as a golf instructor. “The club is catching on and bringing people together. There’s been a lot of excitement.”
Nicknamed “Wonderful Willie” in college, Richardson speaks matter-of-factly about his nine-year NFL career with the Colts. Though his numbers weren’t eye-popping (195 career receptions, 2,950 yards, 25 TDs), the Jackson resident had to share Hall of Fame quarterback Johnny Unitas’ pinpoint passes with Hall of Fame receivers Raymond Berry and John Mackey.
“Playing for the Colts at that time was something special,” Richardson said. “It took me awhile to break into the lineup because we had so many great players.”
He started his first NFL game in 1967 against the Philadelphia Eagles and proceeded to catch 11 passes for two touchdowns. Richardson finished the season with 63 receptions and eight TDs.
A seventh-round draft choice (89th overall) by the Colts in the 1963 NFL Draft, Richardson says he wasn’t intimidated being selected by one of the league’s glamour teams of the 1960s.
“I had played in several all-star games before and after I was drafted,” he said. “Before I reported to the Colts, I was on the ’63 College All-Star team that upset the (1962 NFL champion) Green Bay Packers at Chicago’s Soldier Field.
“I knew I could play and contribute to a team.”
The 70-year old Richardson played in perhaps pro football’s most shocking upset on its biggest stage in 1968 — Super Bowl III in Miami’s Orange Bowl. The Colts, a 22-point favorite, lost to the upstart American Football League’s New York Jets, who were led by none other than NFL and Alabama legend Joe Namath.
The confident Namath had guaranteed a Jets victory five days earlier.
“We had probably our best team and one of the best the NFL had ever seen,” said Richardson, wistfully. “I remember early in the third quarter and us trailing 13-0, (Colts receiver) Jimmy Orr told me, ‘We can lose this game.’ We did.”
Baltimore fell to the Jets 16-7 but the Greenville Coleman High product shone brightly, grabbing six passes for 58 yards to lead all Colts receivers.
The 1971 season was Richardson’s last hurrah in the NFL. Unlike so many former players, he escaped the game without a serious injury.
“I’m so blessed to lead a healthy life and I enjoy helping make Brookwood Byram a great club,” he said. “It’s been a lot of hard work but the community has really responded.”
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