TAHLEQUAH — Greg Richmond never forgot who put him in a position to succeed.
He had someone on the football field to encourage.
He had someone around to assist with academics.
He had someone to offer an “atta boy” during tedious injury rehabilitation sessions.
“There have been so many people help get me where I am today,” Richmond said.
Name after name spills off Richmond's tongue. Stanford White. Willie Kelley. Terry Long. Victor Carruthers. Alonzo Shipp. Bill Clay. Calvin Miller. Karl Dunbar. Bob Simmons. Even Andy Reid and Steve Spagnuolo.
“I grew up in an environment where it was easy for a kid to go left,” Richmond said. “But my coaches, my mom and dad, they all made such an impact on my life.”
Richmond was a talent at Douglass High School, but like many kids, needed a finger to point him in the proper direction. He was a smart enough to follow the paved paths and developed into an Oklahoman and Oklahoma Coaches Association All-State linebacker as a senior in 1998. In observance of the 100th edition of The Oklahoman's All-State football team, to be announced in late December, the newspaper is recognizing players from the previous 99 teams, and Richmond fits right in.
Douglass finished 9-2 in '98, with Richmond also playing quarterback, though the Trojans went no further than the first round of the Class 5A playoffs.
“Still leaves a bitter taste in my mouth. Lost to Ardmore in the first round,” Richmond said.
Richmond had 108 tackles that season. He added four fumble recoveries, two interceptions and seven sacks. But what made Richmond's senior year special was the aid he received and the loyalty he offered in return.
Richmond was a highly recruited prospect. All of the Big 12 schools, as well as Tulsa and Colorado State, were ready to offer the 6-foot-2, 225-pounder a scholarship. But Richmond needed more than one try to qualify academically. Richmond's name melted off schools' recruiting trees. But Oklahoma State, said Richmond, was the one school that remained interested throughout. With the help of tutor Chad Cargill, the Douglass star finally qualified. And OSU's allegiance was returned in kind by Richmond.
“I had some Pac-10 schools interested, too. All of the Big 12. They all backed off except OSU,” Richmond said from Tahlequah, where he spent the last three seasons as defensive line coach at Northeastern State University. “OSU told me they would still honor my scholarship once I qualified. To tell you the truth, that really helped me relax knowing that I had a place to go.”
Richmond was a four-year letterman for the Cowboys. After Les Miles replaced Simmons as head coach in 2001, Richmond was moved from linebacker to defensive end. He finished his college playing career with 21½ sacks, which still rank third in Oklahoma State history. Richmond's professional career was limited to exhibition games with the Philadelphia Eagles — and no one will know what might have happened if not for a back injury and torn knee ligaments.
“My last game was the Hall of Fame game against the Oakland Raiders,” Richmond said. “I played the first half of that game, and then my back went out after halftime. That was my last opportunity to be on the football field as a player. Two years on injured reserve, it's just a testament to the Eagles and Andy Reid. They kept me around and gave me a chance.
“But I've had a great time in football, made a lot of great relationships. If I had to do everything all over again, I'd do it the same way.”