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Tony Richardson:
An Oral History

Richardson is the 2016 addition
to the Chiefs Ring of Honor

By Pete Sweeney

Chiefs Reporter

Tony Richardson played for the Kansas City Chiefs for 11 seasons, from 1995 to 2005. This is his story, as told by some of the most influential names in franchise history.

Richardson was not drafted out of Auburn University in 1994, so he spent his rookie season on the Dallas Cowboys practice squad. The Cowboys did not retain Richardson after the season.

Kent Pulliam

Kent Pulliam

"Tony got here in '95, and I think that the initial hope was that he'd be a good special teams guy, because they ended up carrying a load of running backs that year with Marcus Allen, Greg Hill, Kimble Anders and Donnell Bennett here at the time. Tony was here, so they had six running backs and Tony's real role was to be a special teams guy and run down and make tackles on special teams and punt returns and that kind of thing."

– Kent Pulliam, former Kansas City Star writer

Will Shields

Will Shields

"The one thing I really like about Tony is that you knew he was going to have a long time in the league just because of how he did his work. He was a guy that would come in and he could outrun anybody. He would basically outwork you."

– Will Shields, former Chiefs offensive lineman

Clark Hunt

Clark Hunt

"There are a couple of things about Tony that stood out. One was his physique, which was always impressive. Even among a group of very athletic and large men, Tony was always in incredible shape. And the other thing was that he was one of the hardest workers."

– Clark Hunt, Chiefs chariman and CEO

Tony Richardson

Tony Richardson

"Special teams is how he made the team, and I think it was sort of a perfect storm for him because Marty Schottenheimer was that kind of player when he was in the league and he always had a soft spot in his heart for guys who were hard workers, who had spent the time to put in on special teams, really know the special teams and do just whatever you asked him to do. Tony was that kind of guy from the very beginning."

– Kent Pulliam

"And he'd do it with a smile on his face, and no worries beyond that. You never heard him complain about any hard day. He was a guy that just came to work, and that's one thing you love about him."

– Will Shields

"He knew he was going to have to work that hard to earn a spot on an NFL team, and we're so blessed that it ended up being the Kansas City Chiefs."

– Clark Hunt

"It seemed like he was one of those guys that would basically do anything for the team. If it was basically special teams to start with, and build his way up to be third downs only."

– Will Shields

Tony Richardson blocking for Priest Holmes

Tony blocking for Priest Holmes

"As the year progressed, I think they found that he was a better blocker than they anticipated, and they were able to use him as a blocker, particularly in short-yardage roles, because even then, as a first-year player in the league, he seemed to have a knack of knowing exactly where the block was going to need to be to spring the guy behind him."

– Kent Pulliam

"What was really cool was that he waited his turn ... Once he got to the limelight, you had Kimble (Anders) that went to tailback, and he went to fullback. They made a very dynamic combination."

– Will Shields

"At the time, they had just started voting fullbacks into the Pro Bowl, and Kimble Anders made the Pro Bowl the '95, and '96 seasons when Tony was with his first two years here. So his role was really limited to more special teams in those first two years. Where he came into his own sort of in the offense was as a lead blocker, particularly for Marcus Allen in short-yardage situations."

– Kent Pulliam

"The next thing you know he's in a starting role. Then one time, he was our featured tailback. So he basically did anything that was asked of him, and that's what made him such a unique player."

– Will Shields

Tony Richardson during the 2000 season

Tony during the 2000 season

The Chiefs utilized Tony Richardson as the featured running back in 2000, when he posted 697 yards rushing, a career high.

Richardson: 2001 and the Arrival of Trent Green and Priest Holmes

That offseason, the Chiefs hired Dick Vermeil to be the head coach, and the team acquired QB Trent Green from the St. Louis Rams and signed RB Priest Holmes as a free agent.

Trent Green

Trent Green

"When I initially got here in 2001 after the trade, we were trying figure out what we were going to do offensively, and knowing T-Rich had previously played fullback but then had transitioned more to a tailback in the 2000 season, really the plan, or at least the idea that I was getting was that Tony was going to be the main first and second-down back, and Priest was going to be the third-down back, because Tony's skill set was the bigger, a more power runner."

– Trent Green, former Chiefs quarterback

"One of the things that's often missed about Tony is what a good ball carrier he was. To the extent that, at the beginning of that year, coach Vermiel felt that he would be the featured back. We had signed Priest Holmes, but nobody really knew what Priest was. Priest was coming off an injury after his time in Baltimore."

– Clark Hunt

"I was quote-unquote the 'future back,' and I was supposed to be the man. And we were signing this running back, Priest, and I knew Priest was a very good running back."

– Tony Richardson

"The way things started, the offseason, 'Hey we're going to mix it in a little bit. OK, T-Rich, you're going to do some tailback and some fullback. We're going to do a two-back system in some formations. We're going to have both of you guys on the field at the same time.'"

– Trent Green

After losses in Weeks 1 and 2, the Chiefs met the Washington Redskins in Week 3 of the 2001 season.

"No one really knew what Priest could do until the Washington game."

– Will Shields

"That Washington game was when Priest really kind of grabbed a hold of the running back reigns and Tony transitioned more to a fullback."

– Trent Green

Priest Holmes and Tony

Priest Holmes and Tony

"I think the game that really sticks out - we were playing against the Redskins on the road, and Priest and I are going back and forth with carries, and all of a sudden, he just starts taking off. A lot of people don't remember, when Priest first got here, I wouldn't say he was struggling, but he really wasn't picking up on the offense very well, and really wasn't clicking into the scheme. And then all of a sudden, we played the Redskins, and this cat comes out of nowhere, and I'm like, 'Who is this kid?'"

– Tony Richardson

Holmes rushed for 147 yards and two touchdowns in Kansas City's 45-13 win.

"Things that I knew he had the capability of doing, I think he went to a whole 'nother level. And that was a game for me that really stood out, where I was like, 'This kid is really special.' Things that you see flashes of Emmitt Smith, you see flashes of guys like Barry Sanders. And at that point, it was rare to even put running backs in that category, but Priest had something special. And that's when I knew that this isn't a normal running back. He has a gift."

– Tony Richardson

"It was sort of a breakout game for both of them, because he made the transition, and yet, he had another guy he could lean on in both things."

– Will Shields

From Tailback to Fullback: Richardson's Role Change

"Pretty early in that season, coach Vermeil had recognized that he had something special in Priest, and moved Tony back to his natural fullback position."

– Clark Hunt

Dick Vermeil

Dick Vermeil

"Tony was the kind of player you could sit down and tell him the truth and he'd buy in. You didn't want to con him. He's smart, and he just wanted you to be honest with him. I told him, 'We're going to make a fullback out of you, because that's what he was because we had Priest Holmes as a running back.'"

– Dick Vermeil, former Chiefs head coach

"Vermeil was straight forward pretty much with everybody. And so he would say, 'You're not the guy I want to do this.' So, you either accepted it, or you actually went and found a job somewhere else. That's sort of a cut-and-dry piece about having coach Vermeil."

– Will Shields

Tony blocks for Priest Holmes

Tony blocks for Priest Holmes

"I vaguely remember early conversations, but [Tony] smiled about it. He didn't ask, 'Why? How come? I've been the leading rusher. I've scored the touchdowns.' But [Tony was] going to play a major role in an offense that's a different style. We're going to score more points. And you might do more exciting things within this scheme. And you certainly are going to highlight or help highlight another running back, and we're going to utilize you both."

– Dick Vermeil

"What I love about T-Rich, they come and go, 'Hey, we need you to do this, we need you to play fullback, cover kicks, help with punt returns, anything else.' He said, 'OK.' He'd just get it done."

– Will Shields

"We were going to take advantage of his abilities and Priest Holmes' together. Sometimes, at the same time on the field, and sometimes separately. And he bought in. The great thing about him is, whenever you asked him to do it, he did it the best he could possibly do it, then added a little bit more to it."

– Dick Vermeil

"In retrospect, it was a great move. It allowed Tony to flourish and show the skills he had as a fullback. Really, one of the best fullbacks in the history of the National Football League, certainly in the (history of the) Kansas City Chiefs."

– Clark Hunt

From 2001 to 2003, Richardson helped Holmes rush for 4,590 yards and 56 touchdowns.

Tony and Priest celebrate a touchdown

Tony and Homles celebrate a touchdown

Priest Holmes

Priest Holmes

"I've got to go back to Tony Richardson, which was my fullback - a guy that had an opportunity to actually take that running back position and do anything that he wanted to do with it, because he actually was the starter the year before I got here. But he said at that time when I got there, 'Man, Priest, I respect your game, I want to see us win. I want to see us break records. And in order for that to happen, I need to step back and be the fullback that you need and block these guys.'"

– Priest Holmes, former Chiefs running back

"It doesn't surprise me at all that Tony reacted to things that way. He was always a team-first guy… That doesn't surprise me one bit that he was willing to go to the coaches and put himself out there and say, 'Listen, Priest needs to be the guy, and I'll be the fullback.' That's not surprising at all. That's the type of player and type of person that Tony was and is."

– Trent Green

"The running backs were really tight. That's one thing you always say. That group is always together hanging out, doing things. They were always together, and I think that's what made them unique within themselves, because they're always a part of each other doing things and that sort of stuff."

– Will Shields

"He's an unselfish player. He's a team - first guy. He was that kind of leader, whether it be in the locker room, on the practice field, on the game field. So the fact that he enjoyed the fullback position - there's not many guys that do, because it's a position that doesn't get a lot of attention. Doesn't get nearly the accolades that it should. I was excited for him when he finally did make the Pro Bowl and received several of those."

– Trent Green

Tony at the 2004 Pro Bowl

Chiefs Tony Richardson, Gary Stills, Jerome Woods, Priest Holmes, Trent Green, Will Shields, Dante Hall, and Tony Gonzalez at the 2004 NFL Pro Bowl

Richardson made the Pro Bowl as a member of the Chiefs in 2003 and 2004. He would later earn a third Pro Bowl honor as a member of the Minnesota Vikings in 2007.

"He had such a natural understanding for the game ... I can't tell you how many times Priest Holmes made a long run because Tony Richardson didn't do exactly what he was supposed to do as drawn on the board, but as the defense broke down what the offense was doing, and he adjusted and made the play a better play."

– Dick Vermeil

"In a two-back system, Tony fit that very well because he was a good leader blocker. He had proven that already prior to Priest and I getting to the offense, so that was something he could do well. What we didn't know was how good he could catch the ball out of the backfield. And as a part of the offense, when you have a running game going with Priest, and the offensive line that we had, all of a sudden, that play-action pass became more involved ... When you have a run game like we had, you have the linemen like we had, then you have a fullback that can catch the ball out of the backfield, you find different ways to get those guys the ball, and that's ultimately what we did."

– Trent Green

2003: A Year of Dominance

In 2003, the Chiefs won 13 games, and with the help of Tony Richardson and the offensive line, Priest Holmes set a season-long touchdowns rushing record for the time, with 27.

"If you go back to the year that Priest set the touchdown record, a lot of those were with T-Rich as the lead blocker. I go back to some of the iconic photos that are around Arrowhead Stadium, and around the practice facility, and a lot of those are Marcus Allen scoring a touchdown, or Priest scoring a touchdown, and sure enough, there in the picture, the unheralded fullback who's blowing somebody up, or sealing the edge, or knocking a pile. T-Rich is in a lot of those photos. So it's good to hear he takes a lot pride in that, because I know it's something that is a great accomplishment."

– Trent Green

Priest Holmes follows Tony up the field

Holmes follows Tony up the field

"Tony Richardson, because of his character and his innate leadership skills was a guy that I think helped build the team to the 2003 season, to a level of confidence and belief in what we were doing. It was all transpiring before 2003. He was constantly helping everybody else gain confidence in what we were doing, the coaches we were doing. And no one was leading an offense any better than Al Saunders was. Oh my gosh. We had a great offensive coaching staff."

- Dick Vermeil

"That was our mentality. Coach Al Saunders really put that mentality... It was a mentality to where we couldn't be stopped. I think we tore the record book up, But I think we averaged almost 30 points a game, which was insane... That was the year we knew that there's nothing that anyone can do to stop us. And it was a special feeling because we just laughed. We never took out opponent lightly, but we knew at some point we were going to rush for four touchdowns, and Tony (Gonzalez) is going to have 100 yards, and Dante (Hall) is going to shake everybody in the stadium. It was just one of those things where it was a special year."

– Tony Richardson

"What most people don't realize is that Tony inserted himself in different places and different things. So, just like they said, 'Hey, you guys had a great offensive line - we considered Tony a part of the offensive line at that point, because when he came in the game, there were certain things that he had to do around us to make us all look better. And some of the offensive plays that we ran were geared on him actually taking a big guy on, or coming out and cutting the linebacker before we ever reached the edge. So some of the time he was setting the edge. I know most people talk about how do you set the edge. The cool thing about it is we can take him from the backfield, set the edge, the that gave us an opportunity to try and look cool running around the edge trying to make blocks on linebackers and safeties and things like that."

– Will Shields

Tony Gonzales, Priest Holmes and Tony celebrate a touchdown

Tony Gonzales, Priest Holmes and Tony celebrate a touchdown

"I remember, especially for a fullback. Because in our offensive line, that's something we really took pride in, and you look at that number, it's insane. To score that many touchdowns in a given year. But it was very special. It was something that people asked me all the time. Like, you're entire playing career, what play or what game, or what moment-and to me personally, that was probably the highlight of my entire career. It wasn't carrying the ball or rushing for touchdowns. It was helping Priest and helping our team because it was something special. And it happened so many different ways. Any time we got to the goal line, we knew we were going to score and no one's going to stop us. But sometimes, we'd get into the red zone, and we just knew at some given play, Priest was going to make a run and score a touchdown. So it was something that was very special, and it's something that you talk about one day when you have kids and just say, I was a part of something."

– Tony Richardson

Richardson: The Legacy of the Ring of Honor

"Me as a head coach? I leaned on him. I actually used him as an assistant football coach, because I used him to help me understand people that maybe weren't perfect yet and had a lot of maturing to go through. I used him to help communicate thoughts. Not as a stool pigeon, but to help this other player direct his syncing: 'Hey, follow Tony Richardson. Follow my example-type thing,' and I used him a lot. I leaned on him. And when we had a troubled personality, I leaned on him even more, because a player is with another player far more than a coach is with a player. And it was really, I think, a real help to me as a head coach and to our coaching staff on offense, and even defense. How Tony could transcend both positions? Being a players' player, and being a player that would help lead and help the coaches help somebody else become a better player. I've never been around a guy that did it better."

– Dick Vermeil

"He was an incredible physical player, but probably what separated Tony was his intelligence. Tony was always in the right spot, making the right block. Whether it was a running play for Priest, or whether it was pass protection for Trent, he was one of those unseen guys, if you will, who was making the plays successful. And I think that's really what separates Tony Richardson and allowed him to have a long and successful career in the National Football League."

– Clark Hunt

Tony Richardson

"Tony was one of those guys who studied every aspect of [football]. He not only studied where the guys were coming from. But he knew what his best leverage points were. Even if he wasn't as big as the other guy, he knew how he had to position his own body, and that's part of the detail that Marty Schottenheimer was so instrumental in teaching to everybody on a daily basis and really hands on. So Tony learned how he had to use his body because he wasn't the 250, 260-pound battering ram that you think of typically as a fullback."

– Kent Pulliam

"I think he could have played full back or tailback. It was proven. I just think he has more of a fullback body-set, mindset and everything else, and I think he enjoyed what he did as a fullback. And I think that helped create more of a longevity in his career, because he didn't have to take all of the punishing hits, as far as carrying the ball in and out. And for him to have 17 years in the league, I think that's one thing that perpetuated that for him. He studied the game from top and bottom."

– Will Shields

"You've got to consider all of the guys he's blocked for throughout his career. Whether it be Marcus Allen, or Priest Holmes, or Larry Johnson, or Adrian Peterson, or Thomas Jones-you've got a long list of guys that were really good or great running backs in the National Football League, and a lot of that was due to the blocks that Tony was throwing for them."

– Trent Green

Adrian Peterson and Tony

Adrian Peterson and Tony

"We've been blessed to have many players over the years that give back to the community. But you certainly would have to put Tony in there at the top. It was something he believed in early on. He was involved in a variety of charitable causes. He was one of the most articulate and well-spoken players that we had, and certainly one of the brightest. I think he used all of those skills not only to be a successful football player but to make a big difference in the community for the Kansas City Chiefs."

– Clark Hunt

"You look at all that Tony has accomplished on the field in multiple different offenses-it's difficult for any player at any position to adjust to different offenses. You don't necessarily fit into that skill set. When you look at the guys that are in the Ring, and the skill set they bring, Tony deserves to be there. He's done it in a number of different offenses. He's done it in different roles, as a lead back, as a fullback. He's done it as a blocker, as a runner, as a catcher out in the backfield. He's an all-around player and if you look at what he's accomplished off the field as well, just his leadership in the community, his leadership in the locker room. He's very deserving of this award."

– Trent Green

"Tony's awesome. For a while, he would have the golf tournaments, the fundraisers and different things of that nature. I think that's what makes me think that the Chiefs were always this special group, because we'd always be able to help each other out and basically do as much as we can in the community. And it wasn't just one guy. It was 15, 16, 17, 18 different guys doing things, and yet, pulling different teammates into different things. And Tony was one of those guys. I think at one point, him and Mike Sweeney had a golf tournament that raised money and they would do different programs together. And I think he was one of the first guys that pioneered with a baseball player doing different things."

– Will Shields

"He would take players with him for different functions, and then they would lean on him when they were doing something and wanted help. He would be there."

– Dick Vermeil

Tony Richardson

"I think he's that guy that's done and given of himself to help others that are on the Ring. He's helped me get to where I am. He's helped Priest get on the Ring. So for him, he's that because that helped other guys achieve great things within his play. He might have stepped back from stats and things of that nature for other guys to shine, and that's something you really can't tell in the history books. A guy that's given himself for others to shine. And that's one thing that's really unique about him."

– Will Shields

"For the guys who are in the Ring of Honor, the other guys that I would compare him with - Deron Cherry came in the same way. He was actually not drafted, he signed as a free agent as a punter, and ended up being a long time starter at free safety for the Chiefs and he's in the Ring of Honor. Nick Lowery had gone through four teams I think before he ever got here, and he eventually ended up in there. [Tony's] different because he's not an every-down player. But I think that Tony and Deron have real similar career arcs ... Both of them had the same kind of work ethic, and the same kind of practice dedication and determination to actually accomplish everything that they wanted to."

– Kent Pulliam

"There are some unbelievable names, as I turn my head and look out [at the Ring of Honor]. Unbelievable names. And for his name to be next to Priest Holmes - he helped make Priest Holmes, and to know that the organization led now by Clark Hunt and everybody, John Dorsey and Andy Reid and these people. To know that his name is up there, it will be probably the highlight of his entire reward system because he's been honored many times. When guys come through the NFL and come up, he was honored in high school and honored in college, but this will be the biggest one."

– Dick Vermeil

Tony Richardson

"We had a coach, he was Jimmy Raye II, and his favorite thing was-you really haven't done anything until you've put your mark in indelible ink. I always remembered that statement of indelible ink. So having your name inside of a stadium or a part of a group or thing, that's sort of where you've made your mark. Your kids' kids can come back and see it. And your grandkids can come back and see it. And you've accomplished something great right now, that you can say in the first part of your life. And so now you want to see what's going to happen in the second part."

– Will Shields

"It's hard for people who block for others to become an all-star or become somebody that gets to go into the Hall of Fame, or the Ring of Honor in this case. But frankly, as soon as Tony became eligible for our Ring of Honor, it was a very easy decision. Certainly, he had had recognition through his career as a Pro Bowl player, but if you just look back at the Kansas City Chiefs, the history of outstanding running backs that we had during his tenure, there was one common thread, and that thread was Tony Richardson.

"Just a very special player, and also an incredible person and somebody that my family, and the entire Chiefs organization is blessed to call a Chief."

– Clark Hunt

''Just a very special player, and also an incredible person and somebody that my family, and the entire Chiefs organization is blessed to call a Chief.''

– Clark Hunt