June 14, 2010
BERKELEY - Les Richter, a two-time All-American for the Golden Bears who played in a pair of Rose Bowls during his Cal football career from 1949-51, passed away Friday after suffering a brain aneurysm. He was 79.
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 Los Angeles Rams, where he was an eight-time Pro Bowl selection.
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.
At Cal, Richter played for legendary head coach Pappy Waldorf, and his first team finished 10-1 and was ranked as high as third in the country with its only loss being a 17-14 setback to No. 6 Ohio State in the Rose Bowl. A year later, the Bears were also undefeated during the regular season, going 9-0-1, but this time, as the nation's fifth-rated team, they lost to No. 9 Michigan, 14-6. in the Rose Bowl. Richter served as a team co-captain his senior year in 1951, and although Cal was 8-2 and ranked 19th, the Bears did not advance to a bowl game.
Richter, who came to Cal out of Fresno High School, played offensive lineman, linebacker and kicker for the Bears. He was a consensus All-American at guard in both 1950 and '51, the same years he was voted first-team all-conference. 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.
Richter was chosen with the second overall pick of the NFL Draft, and was traded by the then-Dallas Texans to the Los Angeles Rams for 11 players. He played for the Rams from 1954-62.