Giving Back to his community

CHAD SCARSBROOK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:54 AM ET

Michael Richardson didn't have a very long tenure in Blue and Gold, but he left his stamp on the city and the city left its stamp on him.

The former Blue Bombers running back, who joined Winnipeg in 1992 after a successful college career at Louisiana Tech University, has been working in social services for the past six years in the city. He supervises adolescent day programs and helps provide resources for children, youth and family.

He joined the Bombers in time for the 1992 season after spending the 1991 training camp with the NFL's New York Giants.

"Paul Jones, who was responsible for bringing in guys like James West and Greg Battle, told me as a selling feature 'You'll love the community. They love football and we win 70% of our games. Winnipeg is one of the winningest organizations in pro sports,'" Richardson, 37, said recently. "He was right. They loved football, even when it was close to -20. He didn't lie to me. He was the first scout who didn't."

So Richardson hopped on a plane for Winnipeg.

"When they were recruiting, they sent me a game magazine and I'd look at the (game-time) temperatures," said Richardson. "They were 24 degrees, 30 degrees. Not being a student of the metric system I thought 'Damn, it's freezing even in the summer time,' When I got here it was 26 C. I had a sweatshirt and sweatpants on and I saw people in shorts. One of the guys told me it was Celsius here.

"That was my introduction to Canada and Winnipeg."

Richardson played in 11 games his rookie season but his numbers were enough to lead the CFL in rushing, amassing 1,153 yards rushing and three touchdowns. The 5-foot-11, 200-pounder saved his most impressive performance for the playoffs -- the 1992 Eastern final against Hamilton to be exact.

'HISTORICAL'

"That game was historical," said Richardson. "It was freezing cold and I was wearing baseball shoes on the turf that (quarterback) Matt Dunigan had suggested to me. We were out practising and there was a skim of ice across the turf, a lot of people weren't getting their footing."

Richardson turned to the baseball shoes with "plastic bottoms," and carried the ball 33 times for 227 yards and three TDs -- one of the top playoff performances in league history -- in the Bombers' 59-11 drubbing of t he Ticats, sending them to the Grey Cup.

Richardson was named the CFL's Most Outstanding Rookie that season and was selected to the Eastern Division and All-Canadian all-star teams. He won the rushing title in his second year with the Bombers as well, notching 925 yards.

He signed with the Ottawa Rough Riders as a free agent in 1994 and played two seasons in the nation's capital before returning to Winnipeg in 1996. Then came the Jeff Reinebold era.

"With Reinebold coming in we were excited about having a new coach. Little did we know he had another plan in mind. I came to camp and I was in the best shape ever. I never got the opportunity to display that. Watching all the stuff unfold after that ... it was different."

Richardson had an offer to join Saskatchewan's practice roster and was in talks with Hamilton before deciding to sit out a year. When he realized he wouldn't be able to step right in and play at a level he was accustomed to, he hung up his cleats for good.

Apart from chasing his son Jalen, 12, and daughter Mia, 10, around, Richardson enjoys a good golf game and a "very quiet life." He takes pride in giving back to the community through his job.

"We try to provide life skills and independent living for them and that's way more important than any football I've ever played. My path here came through the Bombers and now I'm doing really meaningful work. Looking back, there's a reason for everything that happened."

Richardson came for football, stayed for lifestyle


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