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Wofford Retires Jersey Number of Jerry Richardson

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In the long history of Wofford College football, just one player has gone on to play successfully in the NFL. That one player, who came to Wofford on a $250 football scholarship in the 1950s, wore the Baltimore Colts uniform two years before deciding to return to Spartanburg and create a business.

The rest, as they say, is history.

The man is Jerry Richardson Ė Wofford football player and alumnus, successful businessman, and founder and owner of the Carolina Panthers of the National Football League. On Oct. 29, during halftime of the Terriersí game with Elon, Wofford College retired the number 51 Richardson wore while playing football at the Spartanburg, SC, school.

Richardsonís number is only the second retired by the school. Former quarterback Shawn Gravesí number 1 is enshrined next to the Gibbs Stadium scoreboard as Richardsonís is now.

The honor given Richardson reflects more than one aspect of his life.

Richardson excelled in football, twice being named an All-American. He still holds Wofford records for most touchdown receptions in a season (nine), most touchdown receptions in a career (21), and most receiving yards in a single game (241). His exploits with the NFLís Colts, though brief, included catching a touchdown pass in Baltimoreís championship game win in 1959.

Using the bonus earned in that championship game win, Richardson passed up on continuing a pro football career to try his hand at business. Along with Charlie Bradshaw, the Terrier quarterback who threw passes to Richardson in college, he created a food service business that at one point included 110,000 employees and landed on the New York Stock Exchange.

Richardsonís business success enabled another venture for him and his investors. Richardson led the effort to bring the NFL to the Carolinas as the Panthers became the 29th franchise in the league in the mid-1990s. When the Carolina Panthers became a reality, Richardson once again returned to Spartanburg, choosing Wofford as the location for the teamís annual summer training camp. That move meant significant improvements for the Terrier football program and a spark to the Spartanburg economy every July and August.

Wofford coach Mike Ayers said he had an opportunity to speak to Richardson before the game and to thank him for ďall that he means to Wofford. Heís been one of those guys you canít say enough about. Just the way that he has helped us is just phenomenal.Ē

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  1. rwallace's Avatar
    What a guy!