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Benny and the Jets: An NFL wedding at ACU

Boone is the radio-TV voice of the Wildcats
Boone is the radio-TV voice of the Wildcats
Daryl Richardson (’14) had 541 runs and catches in three seasons as a running back for the Abilene Christian University football team, and not once did he fumble. But when he took a knee last Dec. 31 in New York City, the ball dropped.
Displaying some of the same dramatic flair he flashed in a Wildcat uniform, Richardson – now with the New York Jets – proposed to his ACU college sweetheart from a horse-drawn carriage in the heart of Times Square on New Year’s Eve. Boom.
Daryl Richardson
Daryl Richardson
“He asked right before midnight,” says Morgan (Myrick 09) Richardson. “So right as I said ‘Yes,’ the clock struck 12 and immediately fireworks went off all around us. It was perfect.”
The fireworks first went off between the two in 2009: Morgan’s last year as an ACU undergrad; and the first for Daryl, who had transferred from Cisco College to follow in the footsteps of his brother, Bernard Scott (’10), the Wildcats’ all-time rushing leader. Morgan had organized a weekly mentoring program pairing ACU student-athletes with local at-risk youths. She remembers a particular October day in which Daryl agreed to take on an extra kid who didn’t have a player to pal around with. The boy, like Daryl, was a running back; but he didn’t have much to run in. His shoes were shot. So Daryl passed on to the youngster the cleats he’d been eagerly waiting a month to receive from Scott, who was in his rookie season for the Cincinnati Bengals.
Morgan witnessed what happened, and soon after they themselves were a pair.
“Something about that day,” she remembers. “I was like, ‘I’m going to end up marrying this guy.’ ”
Daryl and Morgan Richardson
Daryl and Morgan Richardson
She was right. Flanked by a phalanx of gridiron groomsmen, Daryl and Morgan married Saturday night in their alma mater’s Chapel on the Hill. Officiating the ceremony was Dr. Jerry Taylor, ACU associate professor of Bible and ministry, and one of their heroes in the faith. The wedding party, 30 in all, looked like an overdressed scrimmage. Daryl’s tuxedoed backfield included former St. Louis Rams teammates Steven Jackson and Benny Cunningham and his cousins and fellow Wildcat stars Clyde Gates (10) and Aston Whiteside (’12). Among the other current and former players there to cheer him on were Scott and ACU’s all-time leading passer Mitchell Gale (13) – both now with the Canadian Football League’s Toronto Argonauts – and Rams linebacker Alec Ogletree.
“Daryl has been so blessed with great people around him,” Morgan says. “I know so many guys go to the NFL and are surrounded by all these people who are going to get them in trouble and just want to party. But Daryl got there and God seriously looked over him and blessed him with the best people.”
Jackson’s hospitality was noteworthy because of the cutthroat nature of the NFL. The perennial Pro Bowl player and the Rams’ all-time leading rusher could have seen Daryl as a rookie trying to take his job and given him the stiffarm. Instead, he extended a hand of welcome.
Richardson and NFL teammates Steven Jackson and Benny Cunningham.
Richardson and NFL teammates Steven Jackson and Benny Cunningham.
“He’s a great guy,” Daryl says of Jackson. “He gave me the ins and outs of the NFL, a lot of knowledge. He’s always there for me when I need him. One thing he taught me is to take care of the people coming in under you.”
Which is what Daryl did in his second year in 2013 when Cunningham came in as a rookie after Jackson signed as a free agent with the Atlanta Falcons.
This season will be Daryl’s fourth in the NFL and the Jets, who signed him as a free agent in 2014, his second team. He spent all of last season on the practice squad – a reserve group of players available to a team as needed – but hopes new head coach Todd Bowles will give him a chance to prove himself. Which is fine. He’s used to it.
The Richardsons
Richardson proposed to Myrick on a carriage ride in New York City.
Daryl arrived in Abilene with the weight of expectations as the little brother of ACU’s greatest running back and left with arguably the best numbers of any Wildcat ball carrier not named Bernard Scott or Wilbert Montgomery (’77). He was the penultimate player taken in the 2012 draft (252nd out of 253) yet defied the statistical odds and made the Rams’ opening day roster. When Whiteside made the Chicago Bears practice squad the following year, it meant four family members – along with Scott and Gates (currently with the Tennessee Titans) – from the tiny Texas town of Vernon (population approximately 12,000) had reached professional football’s highest level in a five-year window. (That is the equivalent of the city of Abilene sending 40 high school players to the NFL in five years.) And last December, Daryl’s remarkable journey came full circle when he returned to ACU to join Gates as the only members of their family to graduate from college.
There is no way to know whether or not Daryl will make it back onto the Jets’ or any team’s active roster. As Morgan says from their experience, “The NFL is full of empty promises and broken dreams.” But keep an eye on Daryl Richardson. He has a way of quietly working his way into record books and rosters and horse-drawn carriages. Who knows? Maybe a new year in New York means more fireworks.