Alabama has had many terrific high school players in its long football history. Great quarterbacks, hard hitting linebackers, running backs who were near unstoppable. But 40 years ago, Derrick Richardson proved that he might be the greatest two way gridiron hero the state had ever seen.
A fullback and defensive tackle for the 3A Eufaula Tigers (there were only four classes in those days), Richardson played for Coach George Cochran. The Tigers were in the middle of a great run in the late 70's and early 80's. Eufaula ran an old fashioned Auburn 4-4 defense, with angled in 3 technique defensive tackles. Those defensive tackles were attackers, and nobody attacked like Derrick Richardson.
The 5'11, 205 pound Richardson had played on the Eufaula state title team in 1978 as a freshman and had been a 3A All State player since he was a sophomore. He was named Super All State and 3A Player of the Year as a junior and would win the same honors as a senior. He had a dominating senior season, but turned it up a notch in the playoffs. Few of the Tigers played on both sides of the ball, but Richardson was so great that Cochran chose to play him both ways. The Tigers would rest him some on offense and limit his snaps. But those snaps put fear in opposing defenses and increased as the weather cooled and Eufaula got deeper in the playoffs. Richardson played fullback in the Eufaula "I" formation option attack. He would go on to play linebacker at Mississippi State.
Richardson had incredible quickness with great feet. It was almost impossible to block him low, perfectly legal in any manner in those days. Teams had great difficulty cutting him off on the backside of a play. He got off blocks extremely quick and had great upper body strength. On offense, Richardson powered through holes with the same power and speed. This is Coach Cochran with All State receiver Lee Hollingsworth.
On December 4, 1981, Eufaula traveled to Hartselle to take on the north Alabama Tigers who had lost to Charles Henderson in the 3A title game the year before. Hartselle and Coach Don Woods entered the game 12-1, losing only to power Brentwood Tennessee 28-18 at mid season. Their offense was the number one ranked offense in the state. Eufaula had the top defense, having given up only 62 points in 13 games, an average of less than 5 points per game.
Woods was deeply worried about getting Richardson blocked. What he didn't know was that Richardson had his sights on dominating both sides of the ball. Hartselle soared to a quick 14-0 lead after a couple of early Eufaula fumbles. After that, it was all Derrick Richardson.
Richardson scored on runs of 9, 9, and 70 yards and also caught a 24 yard touchdown pass from quarterback Anthony Scott. He would end the night with 176 yards on 23 carries and four touchdowns. Richardson's offensive exploits didn't slow down his defensive tackle play. He was dominate as usual, making an unbelievable 19 tackles from his defensive tackle position. Eufaula would win the game, 39-20 and win the 3A State Championship.
Richardson would dominate the 3A All State team when it was released two weeks later, a squad that included one Vincent "Bo" Jackson from McAdory.
Thanks to the Montgomery Advertiser for the photos and original articles.