AUG. 1, 1983
As a teenager in Mobile, Ala., Richard Todd looked up to Joe Namath, whose path he followed first as a star quarterback at Alabama, then as the No. 1 draft pick of the New York Jets in 1976. The chance to play on the same team as his hero was, Todd said, "a dream come true." Today, his memories from 11 years in the NFL don't seem quite the stuff of dreams. "When you're younger you think football is just a fun game," he says. "Let's be honest, it's not."
Todd spent his first eight years with the Jets, and his disillusionment came early. New York released Namath after the '76 season and handed his job to the 23-year-old Todd. The fans and media in the Big Apple expected a smooth transition; when Todd threw more interceptions than touchdown passes in each of his first five seasons, he was booed brutally and bashed by the press. In '81 Todd snapped, shoving a New York Post reporter against a locker. Says Todd with a sigh, "I wish I was more patient with the media. But being a quarterback in New York isn't easy."
The next year, however, he made it look simple. He inspired Jets fans to wave TODD IS GOD signs as he led the team to the playoffs, where he completed 67.3% of his throws in wins over the Cincinnati Bengals and the Los Angeles Raiders. The following week, in the AFC Championship Game against the Miami Dolphins, Todd strutted onto the rain-soaked field at the Orange Bowl thinking Super Bowl. "We were prepared," he recalls. "I was ready." Those who watched him in the Jets' 14-0 loss would say otherwise. He connected on just 15 of 37 passes for 103 yards and threw five interceptions, one of which was returned for a touchdown. A year later Todd was dealt to the New Orleans Saints.
For Todd, life has improved since he left the NFL. He works as a manager and salesman for Bear, Stearns & Co. in Atlanta. He and his wife, Lulu, have what Richard calls "a modern marriage," in which he keeps an apartment near the office and flies his 310 Cessna on weekends to Florence, Ala., where Lulu lives with their children, Richard, 11, Darbi, 7, and James, 2. He says he doesn't miss the game. He definitely doesn't miss the jeers. "If I could do it all over again, maybe I'd be a backup quarterback," says Todd. "Everybody likes them."