James “Friday” Richards, who had a brief NFL career but is much better known for shaping the lives of hundreds of young men as a high school coach, has died at the age of 64.
Richards grew up in Marietta, Georgia, and was an all-state running back as a senior, when he rushed for more than 2,000 yards. He played college football at Florida, and was a seventh-round pick of the Jets in 1976.
Although Richards didn’t last long in the NFL, he made his mark by returning to Marietta High School in 1978 and becoming a teacher and a coach of football, basketball and track. He became the head football coach in 1995 and stayed in that role until retiring in 2010, and he was well known in the community for his work with young people.
‘’He was just a kind-hearted, caring person and as likable a guy as you’ll ever find,’’ the school’s former athletic director, Jeff Wheeler, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “He loved the kids he was coaching and the people he worked with. The whole Marietta community is going to miss him. Even after he retired, he was still a big part of what was going on.’’
Said Cobb County Athletic Director Steve Jones, “To many of his players he was a dad. He loved that. He was such a good person. Obviously he was a legend in Marietta. He was big hearted, loved kids and was a great motivator. Kids played so hard because they knew he loved them.”