1975 Dallas Cowboys Player Rankings #13 Golden Richards
With a countenance brushed by the sweet innocence of the Mormon mountains to brighten the day, and long blond locks kissed by the Hawaiian sun flowing from beneath his helmet, Golden was an underdog named Richards whose No. 83 had always been easy for hometown fans to spot and cheer on. It was in 1975, his third season as an NFL receiver, that Golden officially shed the underdog tag and established himself as a bona-fide big-play threat for the Dallas Cowboys whose talents could be appreciated by all.
A wide receiver with a lanky build and an eager disposition, Golden had quickly worked himself up from a little-known No. 2 draft pick out of Hawaii in 1973, outlasting Otto Stowe and ousting the legendary Bob Hayes on his way to training camp in 1975 where he entered as the Cowboys’ No. 2 wideout on the depth chart. It was there that Golden received yet another challenge for a starting role in the form of Jean Fugett.
At 6-1 and 183-pounds, Golden had the speed that struck fear into the hearts of defensive backs. But consistent struggles in his route-running resulted in him beginning the 1975 regular season splitting time with Fugett at the flanker position. Unable to get into a rhythm on offense, Golden caught only three passes over the season’s first four games. Still, he managed to stay relatively busy, using his soft hands as the Cowboys’ returner on punts.
It wasn’t until Week 5 versus Green Bay that Golden finally made headlines in Dallas, though it must be admitted that it happened for all the wrong reasons. In the fourth quarter of a close game with the winless Packers at Texas Stadium, Richards muffed a punt that directly resulted in Green Bay’s brief game-winning march. The first fumbled punt of his football career not only removed Dallas from the ranks of the NFL’s unbeaten teams, it also afforded Golden a can’t-miss view into the foul dispositions that can pose as Sunday supporters.
“Personally, I found out just how small individuals can be,” Richards recalled. “We were out on a public appearance on our off day after the Green Bay game, and well, you should have heard some of the heckling. I couldn’t believe it.”
The following Sunday, Richards put the previous week’s debacle emphatically behind him with a 43-yard punt return for a touchdown at Veterans Stadium. That day also spelled Golden’s return as the full-time No. 2 wide receiver, with Fugett having moved inside at tight end to spell the injured Billy Joe Dupree. His 46-yard pass reception from Roger Staubach later in the game proved critical in a second-half rally that saw the Cowboys nip Philadelphia 20-17 at the final gun.
Two weeks later, Richards wowed a Monday Night Football audience with a pair of athletic scoring grabs during a shootout with Kansas City. But when the Cowboys fell three points short at the end, Golden was kicking himself for another potential touchdown that he let slip through his fingers.
“That long bomb I dropped was probably the best pass that Roger has thrown to me all year,” said Richards in the postgame locker room. “I just dropped it. What else can I say? The game plan didn’t call for any deep passes, but they just happen. Staubach had a fine night but he didn’t have a supporting cast. He’s the quarterback and catches all the flack. But the loss is not his fault.”
Golden continued to be a big-play artist as the season progressed, recording a 52-yard touchdown versus New England in Week 9 and a 62-yard gainer two weeks later versus the New York Giants. But it was his efforts during Dallas’ Week 13 showdown with Washington that made the most difference in the Cowboys’ pursuit of a postseason berth.
With Dallas trailing 10-0 in a must-win game, Richards turned what appeared to be a simple sideline reception into a 57-yard second-quarter touchdown by outracing Harold McClinton and Chris Hanburger into the end-zone, turning the game around and saving the Cowboys’ season.
And in the NFC Championship Game, Golden was but one of many Cowboys who frustrated the Los Angeles Rams by seeming to romp in the California sunshine. His third-down reception of 47-yards in the second quarter opened the floodgates on a Dallas blowout, leading to Golden’s short touchdown catch on one knee that gave the Cowboys a 14-0 lead on their way to a 37-7 victory.
It was in Super Bowl X in Miami that Golden’s season ended in misery. After being blanketed by Pittsburgh’s Steel Curtain defense for three quarters, Golden was greeted with a “legal” karate chop from Steelers cornerback Mel Blount that left him on the bench for the final frame with busted ribs.