A tough week just keeps getting tougher.
My apologies for another article in today’s ScoreBoardTx on the sad topic of someone passing, but life has dealt some bad cards lately. Death is a part of life, but it seems to have struck home in Texas and the sports world heavily over the last few days.
First former Texas A&M running back Rodney Thomas passed away at 41 from a heart attack in his sleep on Saturday. Steelers great Chuck Noll was also lost over the weekend. And the best hitter of our generation, Tony Gwynn, died at the young age of 54 from cancer on Monday.
All saddened me and moved me to thoughts and prayers for the families. Then Tuesday delivered a personal gut punch which has me in tears as I write this.
Richard Durrett was one of a kind. The talented ESPN Dallas writer and reporter died suddenly on Tuesday, reportedly of a brain aneurysm. He was only 38.
Now I didn’t personally know Thomas, Noll or Gwynn. All have been showered with deserved accolades of their great character.
But I knew Richard well, and let me tell you, if you tried to make a list of people who were friendlier and were more fully respected and liked by everyone they came across, it would have no one on it.
I met Richard 12 years ago. He was a Dallas Morning News reporter, trying to find his niche and paying his dues. He was the backup beat writer for the Dallas Stars, and it was my first season as PR man for the hockey club. We hit it off right away.
Richard’s sense of humor and contagious smile made him an easy guy to like. He quickly became the primary Stars beat writer and we spent many an evening on the road in hotel bars, always talking sports. Richard loved his TCU Horned Frogs, the Clemson Tigers and the Auburn Tigers. And my sides still ache from laughing with him about a myriad of topics, especially his penchant for unique pronunciations of Stars players nicknames.
Richard was a family man; his two kids – Owen and Alice – were the loves of his life. He adored his wife Kelly.
And Richard was close to his dad. That’s where the Auburn tie comes in. His dad was an Auburn grad, and a passionate one at that. When the 2013 college football schedule came out, Richard decided that he wanted to take his dad to the Tigers’ game at Texas A&M in October, but was having trouble coming up with good seats.
So he naturally called the person who probably might have a hook or angle to get some decent seats – me. An Aggie season ticket holder, I have four good seats and I did not hesitate to offer up two of them for Richard and his dad.
Richard’s dad is also a huge fan of marching bands, and the two got up early Saturday of game day to go watch the Aggie Band rehearse their performance for the game that afternoon at Kyle Field. Richard was a proud son, knowing that he had been able to share a thrill with his dad that morning, with an exciting Auburn game to follow.
Richard and his dad joined us in section 413 at Kyle, both decked out in Auburn orange. His father asked, “Will we catch some heat wearing our Tiger garb?” Richard and I assured him he wouldn’t have to sweat it; Aggies have a reputation of being good hosts.
We were more than good hosts that day. The Auburn offense cut through A&M like a hot knife through butter (who didn’t last year?), and they held on to win a see-saw game, 45-41.
I remember being disappointed in my Ags going down, but I was sincerely happy for Mr. Durrett and Richard, who were gracious in victory. I could tell how much it meant to them, and it was a moment shared between father and son that I was happy to be a part of.
Less than eight months later, Richard is now gone. I was looking at his Facebook page tonight and couldn’t help but shed some more tears when seeing the recent Father’s Day weekend pics of Owen at a little league game, and young sweet Alice looking up at her dad with adoring eyes. My thoughts and prayers are with Richard’s entire family.
Richard texted me on Sunday, wishing me a Happy Father’s Day. I returned the sentiment and mentioned we should get together for lunch soon. He agreed.
Life was cut short for Richard Durrett, but he accomplished a lot while on this earth. He was a hell of a reporter and writer, and was thorough in each and every story he wrote. But most of all, he made an impact on people. The accolades and comments are piling up on the various media reports of his passing, each saying the same thing – fantastic human being, friend, father, husband and son.
Rest in peace, Richard. I know you are in a better place. I know my life is better just knowing you for too short a time.