Feb. 5, 2011
BERKELEY - Les Richter, a two-time All-American for the Golden Bears during his Cal career from 1949-51 and an eight-time Pro Bowl selection while with the Los Angeles Rams, was elected to the Pro Football Hall of Fame on Saturday.
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.
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 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 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, 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 passed away on June 12, 2010, at the age of 79.
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.
Joining Richter in the Class of 2011 are former players Deion Sanders, Marshall Faulk, Richard Dent, Shannon Sharpe and Chris Hanburger, and NFL Films founder Ed Sabol. Induction ceremonies will be Saturday, Aug. 6 in Canton, Ohio.