Former Daleville High School and NFL football player Tony Richardson travelled the country during his playing days, but he never forgot where he started.
Richardson — who graduated from Daleville in 1990 before playing collegiately at Auburn University and embarking on a 17-year career as a fullback in the NFL — is part of the 2013 class of the Wiregrass Sports Hall of Fame, and will be inducted during a July 13 ceremony.
"I was very excited," Richardson said of his induction. "That's where I started. When I played football at Daleville, I never thought I would be in a Hall of Fame, have the opportunity to play at Auburn and in the National Football League for 17 years. It's definitely a blessing and an honor. It's special to me to know everything started for me right there in Daleville. I get a chance to share it with my family and my friends and a lot of people who rooted for me back then. It's quite the blessing."
Following his senior season at Daleville, Richardson moved on to Auburn and was part of an 11-0 team in 1993, his final year with the Tigers.
The Auburn standout went undrafted in 1994 and began his professional career on the Dallas Cowboys' practice squad before going to Kansas City, where he became a starter and played 11 seasons.
"(It was) a lot of life lessons," Richardson said. "I look back on it and I tell young kids now, 'It's not about where you start. It's how you finish.' I just kept working, believing in myself and trusting in the process. It all ended up working out 17 years later."
When his Kansas City tenure ended after the 2005 season, Richardson spent two years with the Minnesota Vikings and three more with the New York Jets.
Though Richardson was a selected to play in the Pro Bowl three times during his career, the accomplishments of his teammates stand out to the former fullback.
"The thing I most cherish is having the opportunity to work with (Minnesota Vikings running back) Adrian Peterson and see him break records, or (former running back) Priest Holmes and watch him break records or (former running back) Marcus Allen and watch him break records," he said. "In doing so you really don't get the glory, but you know your team had a chance to win the game and you've got a chance to help someone else out."
The 2010 season was Richardson's last with the Jets. He was presented with the NFL's 2010 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award for community service, and continued to help younger players through the National Football League Players Association.
"The things I learned, I wanted to try to pass that back and help them be successful in their careers," Richardson said. "One of my proudest things is I sat on the executive committee that negotiated the last (collective bargaining agreement), and just knowing football in America would never be played the way it was played in the past as far as the amount of two-a-days, the amount of hitting and different things we do and the amount of being in training camp. To be a part of that, sit down and negotiate the last C.B.A., is something I know really made a difference in our league — not only from a financial standpoint, but also from a health and safety standpoint."
Throughout all of his accomplishments on and off the field, Richardson learned how to handle success.
"Never forget where you come from. Never forget the life lessons your coaches, teachers and your parents have been telling you since you were a youngster," he said. "My faith, belief and trust in God is my primary source, but ... don't forget the people who were talking to you when you were a youngster and you thought you knew everything. The same things they were telling you (then) are the same things that apply in your life today."
Daleville provided Richardson's introduction to football. With his induction into the Wiregrass Sports Hall of Fame, the former Warhawk has come full circle.
"I know if it had not been for me having an opportunity to play there at Daleville, working with a great coach in Coach (Perry) Swindall and, really, him teaching me how to be a professional in my work ethic — that's where it all started," Richardson said. "Every time I think back to those days... (of) doing all the little things to try to become successful, it just makes this even more meaningful. It's quite an honor and a blessing, and I'm really looking forward to sharing it with my family and my friends back at home."