Jeff Richardson was part of back-to-back national championship college football teams at Michigan State. His next gridiron stop, with the New York Jets, resulted in a Super Bowl III victory.
Richardson played on teams that reached the pinnacle of the sport on a regular basis in the mid-1960s.
The former defensive lineman credits the foundation built at Greater Johnstown High School for much of his success.
"I’m proud to be a Trojan. I’ve always been a Trojan. I was born a Trojan. I’ll die a Trojan,” Richardson said during a recent trip to his hometown in which he presented Johnstown High with a golden football commemorating his role in Super Bowl III. “I also have a little Spartan in me and a little Jet in me, but Trojan first.”
Richardson actually was a three-sport standout at Johnstown High in the 1960s. In addition to being part of the successful Trojans football team, he was a state champion wrestler and a track and field standout.
As a wrestler, Richardson had a 52-3 record for the Trojans, including a 22-0 mark en route to a Pennsylvania state championship during his junior year. At Michigan State, he won the Big Ten Conference heavyweight wrestling championship as a sophomore and earned All-American honors in 1966 and 1967.
In football, Richardson played for Spartans coach Duffy Daugherty, a Northern Cambria native, and was part of what then was called "The Game of the Century" – when second-ranked Michigan State and top-ranked Notre Dame played to a 10-10 tie in November 1966. Johnstown Catholic graduate and future NFL player Pete Duranko played for the Fighting Irish in that memorable contest.
"They were America's choice," Richardson said of Notre Dame. "They were favored all the way. We were a dominating defense with a pretty good offense. The bets were really on Notre Dame to win the game."
Richardson and the New York Jets were underdogs to the Baltimore Colts in Super Bowl III on Jan. 12, 1969. Jets quarterback Joe Namath made headlines by guaranteeing a New York victory over the Colts.
“The Colts considered us as ‘the other team from the other league,’ ” Richardson said. “They didn’t think much of us at all."
What about Namath’s guarantee?
“We were busy complimenting the Colts, and they were busy tearing us down,” Richardson said. “Nobody wanted Namath or anybody to predict we were going to win the game. We wanted to put you guys (in the media) to sleep. When Namath made that prediction, we were all, ‘Oh, no.’ He got to the point where he couldn’t take it anymore. The coach (Weeb Ewbank) went crazy.”
The American Football League Jets upset the National Football League Colts 16-7 at the Orange Bowl in the first NFL-AFL Championship game to officially use the Super Bowl name.
A 6-foot-3, 250-pound defensive end, Richardson played three professional seasons, two with the New York Jets. He retired after playing with the Miami Dolphins in 1969.