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Richardson, 55, sits in a vast paneled suite high above Spartanburg. Anything much over two stories would be high over Spartanburg, but Richardson occupies a large office on the 16th floor in the headquarters of TW Services Inc., of which he is president and CEO. TW Services, which had 1990 sales of $3.7 billion (but showed a net loss of $68 million because of debt-service stemming from a leveraged buyout in 1989), controls—including company-owned restaurants and franchises—the Denny's chain of 1,369 restaurants as well as 498 Hardee's restaurants, 216 Quincy's Family Steakhouses, 223 El Polio Locos, and Canteen, which provides concession services to everything from Yankee Stadium to Yellowstone National Park.
Out his window Richardson can sec the stadium at Wofford College, where he played football. He says he chose the site of Spartanburg's lone skyscraper for the view, but that could be a joke. If he does look out on his alma mater, it's all the looking back he does in a day.
Richardson mostly thinks ahead, about making TW bigger and, lately, about bringing the NFL to the Carolinas, a proposition that could put him $250 million in the hole before he signs a single player. Both endeavors demand a business acumen not ordinarily associated with a backup receiver. As far as that goes, when he graduated from Wofford, Richardson could no more have been guaranteed an NFL career than he could a business success. One idea would have been as preposterous as the other. It's the old joke: Not only were NFL jobs bad, but they were hard to get, as well. The league had only 12 teams then, and smaller squads. And Richardson was not exactly a can't-miss prospect. He had been a walk-on at Wofford and, for all his hustle, was not about to make scouts forget he was a spindly 185 pounds and lacked speed.
"The first day in camp," recalls Richardson, leaning forward over an acre desk, "Weeb [Ewbank, the Colt coach] explained how he would keep 35 players, listing them by position. Well, he planned to keep just three wide receivers, and 19 were in camp. Two of them were Raymond Berry and Lenny Moore. I wasn't bursting with optimism."
Going into the final cuts, he figured to lose out to Michigan State's John (Big Thunder) Lewis, a player of higher pedigree and with a much better nickname than Richardson's (Stick). "The idea was, I'd play a quarter, he'd play a quarter," says Richardson of the final preseason game. "Well, he played first and did fairly well. I played second and did terrible. I remember at halftime that John—and keep in mind we roomed together—asked me how I was doing, and I told him terrible. The second half I caught something like seven passes. The next week the other guy got cut. When I think about it, I might have gotten a little help. You have to have a little help sometimes, don't you think?"
Did Unitas really do Richardson the favor of his passes? "To tell you the truth, I had forgotten we were roommates," says Unitas, "but yeah, that may have been something the coaches did, put a guy in there to go over pass patterns with." Whatever intentions Unitas may have had in that preseason game are forgotten.
Largely forgotten, too, is Richardson's short career. He modeled himself after Berry, which seems like a good idea if you don't know what being Raymond Berry was all about. "Nobody could act like Raymond Berry—washing your own uniform, eating raisins," says Hawkins. "But I did catch Jerry in the training room one time standing on his head, doing some kind of yoga for 30 minutes. Raymond had gotten him on some binge. Jerry was a good disciple, like Raymond, always looking for some edge."
As a rookie coming off the bench, Richardson caught seven passes in '59, three for touchdowns, and even he was amazed by those receptions. In an important game with the Los Angeles Rams, after calling a play that usually sent the ball to Berry, Unitas pulled Richardson aside and told him he might throw this pass hard. "I wondered why he told me that," says Richardson. "Was I supposed to knock it down for Raymond?" The pass went to Richardson for a touchdown, and the Colts came from behind to win.
Although he didn't play much in the title game against the New York Giants, he made his time count in that game, too. With Baltimore leading 14-9, Unitas hit him on a 12-yard down-and-out for the touchdown that turned the game into a runaway. "That pass has become legendary—in the Richardson family," he says.
But he had only eight receptions in '60, so when the time came to break with pro football after only two seasons, he did it without regret. He also did it without much of a plan, though he had queried Ameche and Marchetti about their burgeoning fast-food business and liked that line of work better than insurance.