Wofford College will officially retire the #51 jersey number worn by Jerry Richardson in a ceremony during the October 29 football game against Elon. Richardson, a 1959 graduate of Wofford, is currently the owner of the Carolina Panthers.
“Retiring a jersey means, among other things, that the person who wore it was so extraordinary on the field that we never expect to see his like again,” said Wofford College President Dr. Benjamin Dunlap. “In Jerry Richardson’s case, we need to revise that meaning slightly because he has been as extraordinary off the field as on ¬- and because no one at Wofford College has done more through the years to discover and support future Jerry Richardson’s than Jerry himself. Like all great players, he takes his teammates with him to greater heights.”
Richardson came to Wofford in the mid-1950s as an unheralded pass receiver from Fayetteville, N.C. By the time he left to begin his pro career with the Baltimore Colts, the passing combination of Charlie Bradshaw to Jerry Richardson had received nationwide fame. Richardson was an Associated Press Little All-America selection in 1957 and ‘58.
He still holds Wofford’s single-game record with 241 receiving yards vs. Newberry in 1956 and is the record holder for touchdown receptions in a season (9 in 1958) and in a career (21). As a senior at Wofford, he scored 72 points on nine touchdowns, 12 extra points and two field goals. Richardson calls his greatest honor being elected team captain in 1958. In 1983, he was chosen to Wofford’s All-Time Football team as a receiver.
In addition to his prowess on the football field, Richardson was also active in numerous groups on the Wofford campus. He was a member of Kappa Alpha fraternity, President of the Inter-Fraternity Council, and member of the SCA Cabinet. Honors he received while at Wofford included Distinguished Military Student, Scabboard and Blade Military Fraternity, Sigma Delta Psi, Blue Key National Honorary Fraternity, and recognition in “Who’s Who in American Universities and Colleges.”
Drafted in the 13th round by the defending world champion Colts, Richardson played two seasons in the NFL, earning Colt Rookie of the Year honors in 1959. He caught a touchdown pass in the 1959 Championship game from Johnny Unitas.
Following his NFL career, Richardson embarked on a successful business career. From headquarters in Spartanburg, he co-founded Spartan Foods which was the first franchisee of Hardee’s. He later was the CEO of Flagstar, which was the sixth largest food service company in the nation. Richardson is the only person to be inducted into both the North Carolina and South Carolina Business and Athletic Halls of Fame.
On October 26, 1993, Richardson became the first former NFL player since George Halas to become an owner when the Carolinas were unanimously awarded the NFL’s 29th franchise. The team began play in 1995 and reached the NFC Championship game in the 1996 season. In 2004, the Panthers won the NFC Championship and advanced to Super Bowl XXVIII.
A lifelong resident of the Carolinas, Richardson and his wife, Rosalind Sallenger Richardson, have two sons, Jon and Mark, and a daughter, Ashley Richardson Allen, of Charlotte. The Richardsons have nine grandchildren and live in Charlotte.
While the #51 jersey has not been worn by a Wofford player since 1993, it had not been officially retired. The #1 jersey of Shawn Graves was retired on November 14, 1992, the final home game of his career.