Tony Richardson’s job throughout most of his NFL career was to make others better. On Sunday, all the applause went to him.
With former members of the Chiefs lined across the field on alumni day, Richardson was inducted into the Chiefs Ring of Honor during a halftime ceremony.
He was presented a framed No. 49 jersey and stood with Chiefs chairman Clark Hunt as he watched his name take its place among the 45 others surrounding Arrowhead Stadium.
“For me, it’s pretty humbling,” Richardson said. “When I first saw it, my knees buckled a little bit. The number of times I ran out of that tunnel and saw Len Dawson, Jan Stenerud, Derrick Thomas, Christian Okoye, to have my name up there, it just doesn’t seem real.”
Richardson played for the Chiefs from 1995-2005 and was a Pro Bowl selection in 2003 and 2004. He earned a third Pro Bowl spot while playing for the Vikings.
He finished his career with the New York Jets and selected Sunday’s game as the one where he wanted to be honored.
On Sunday, Richardson watched the Chiefs defeat the Jets 24-3.
Richardson rushed for 1,727 yards and 15 touchdowns and caught 210 passes for 1,543 yards and nine touchdowns in his NFL career. He led the Chiefs with 697 rushing yards in 2000.
But he was primarily used as a blocking back and he paved the way for some of the game’s greatest.
An undrafted free agent from Auburn, Richardson spent his first year of the Cowboys’ practice squad. He wasn’t retained by the Cowboys and was signed by the Chiefs the next season, earning a roster spot because of his special-teams ability and work ethic.
But he got offensive snaps as Marcus Allen’s lead blocker in short-yardage situations and blossomed a blocking back in the Dick Vermiel era, paving the way for Priest Holmes and Larry Johnson in the team’s record-setting offense.
With Richardson providing the escort, Holmes rushed for 1,000 yards in three seasons and Johnson reached 1,000 yards once. Holmes led the NFL in rushing with 1,555 yards in 2001, ran for a club-record 1,615 yards in 2002 and 1,420 yards in 2003, including a then-league record 27 rushing touchdowns. Johnson led the AFC in rushing with 1,750 yards in 2005.
Richardson reprised his role in Minnesota, helping get Adrian Peterson’s career off to a good start.
For the Jets, Richardson helped Thomas Jones churn out an AFC-leading 1,312 yards in 2008 and providing leadership to a team that went to consecutive AFC championship games.
Richardson said the role was shaped by his background as a member of a military family. He was born in Germany, where his father served. His sister is currently in the military.
“Service is all I’ve known all my life, giving of yourself and helping other people,” Richardson said.