Aug. 6, 2011
One of the greatest Golden Bears during the Pappy Waldorf era who went on to a long-time NFL career, Les Richter, was formally enshrined into the Pro Football Hall of Fame Sunday in Canton, Ohio. Joining Richter in the Class of 2011 were former players Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Richard Dent, Shannon Sharpe and Chris Hanburger, and NFL Films founder Ed Sabol.
An offensive lineman, linebacker and kicker at Cal, Richter earned letters from 1949-51 and was part of two Rose Bowl teams. The 1949 squad finished 10-1 and was ranked as high as third nationally before falling to Ohio State, 17-14, on New Year's Day. In 1950, the Bears completed the regular season at 9-0-1, but dropped a 14-6 decision to Michigan in the Rose Bowl. Cal finished 8-2 and ranked 19th during Richter's senior year, when he also served as a team co-captain.
Richter was chosen first-team all-conference and a consensus All-American at guard in both 1950 and '51. In 1951, he kicked 40 PATs to set a Pacific Coast Conference record. Richter was also a member of the Cal rugby team while in Berkeley. He earned his degree in business administration.
Also a member of both the Cal Athletic Hall of Fame and the National Football Foundation Hall of Fame, Richter was valedictorian of his graduating class before embarking on a nine-year NFL career with the Rams.
"He was a tremendous player who brought a lot to the table," said Jim Hanifan, one of Richter's teammates with the Golden Bears and a fellow Cal Hall of Famer. "He was a big man that could really run, which was unique in that era. He played in an era with guys like Ray Nitschke. Les was bigger. As a football player, he had the total package: brains, brawn, toughness and ability. He had all the physical attributes to be a great linebacker, but his intelligence and instincts set him apart."
Richter was drafted second overall by the New York Yanks in 1952, but had to wait through two years of military service before he could begin his nine-year career. The Yanks folded two days after Richter was drafted. Their assets were later granted to the expansion Dallas Texans, who traded Richter's rights to the Los Angeles Rams for 11 players.
Considered one of the most punishing linebackers during his era, Richter never missed a game during his 112-game career from 1954-62, picking off 16 interceptions. In addition to his time on defense, he also saw some action at center and served as the Ram's placekicker early on. He led Los Angeles in scoring in both 1955 and '56 and totaled 193 points on 29 field goals and 106 extra points during his career.
Richter, who passed away on June 12, 2010, at the age of 79, was chosen to the Pro Bowl eight times.
After retiring from football, Richter became one of the co-owners of Riverside International Raceway and helped turn that track into one of the finest in the world. He also co-founded the International Race of Champions, became a vice president of NASCAR and played a dominant role in the development of California Speedway. He was inducted into the Motor Sports Hall of Fame of America in 2009.