Former BYU and Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Golden Richards says he was surprised to learn recently a Texas bus driver had assumed his name and identity. By Wednesday night, the Salt Lake resident was frustrated with national reports linking him to the man being arrested and charged with parole violations in Houston.
Even more disturbing were the crank phone calls made to Richards' family members about the criminal charges.
"I had never heard of this guy," said John Golden Richards of the impostor, Gordon "Golden" Richards, whose claims of playing football extend from the Cowboys to BYU and Hawaii, the universities where Richards played.
Golden Richards told the Deseret News Thursday morning that he first learned of the identity crisis this month when contacted by Sports Illustrated, which is sending a reporter in to do a story on Richards and the Texas man who has taken his name. The sports magazine said the man "had duped them . . . they had talked to the guy who is supposedly me" in an article published this spring.
"But they didn't tell me anything about a criminal aspect until I heard about it," said Richards, who found an online version of the Associated Press story saying he had been arrested and charged Tuesday.
He called Salt Lake TV and radio stations Wednesday night in damage-control efforts to alert the media of the mistake, with the erroneous AP article already well circulated.
Richards wonders how long the deception has been played by the Texas man, if it extended from merely co-workers to the man's own children. "Did this guy serve his jail sentence telling everybody he was me?" he asked.
Gordon Richards, who had told co-workers he was the former football player, was arrested after completing his shift as a bus driver and charged with violating parole.
The Dallas Cowboys reported on their Web site Wednesday the "real" Golden Richards said he was not in any way the man driving the bus in Houston.
The Cowboys said Houston police e-mailed a picture of the man arrested and it did not resemble the 1978 picture of Richards in the team's files.
The charges against the fired bus driver stem from three home burglary convictions in Freeport dating to 1996, authorities said. Metropolitan Transit Authority police arrested the man Tuesday.
"He was finishing his route and ended it at the Buffalo Bayou facility, which is also our police headquarters," Metro spokeswoman Julie Gilbert said.
Gilbert said Wednesday the bus driver had told co-workers he played for the Cowboys and that had led to earlier stories about his being a driver.
Golden Richards caught a 29-yard touchdown pass from Robert Newhouse with 7:04 left in a 27-10 victory over Denver in the 1978 Super Bowl. He played for two seasons with the Chicago Bears after being released by the Cowboys in 1978. Richards retired in 1980 after failing to make the Denver Broncos.
Metro police said they were investigating the bus driver after receiving a tip that he lied about his criminal history on his employment application.
Gilbert said Metro hires a private company for background checks on prospective employees, but the man's criminal history was not spotted. Metro police made a more detailed check and found the parole violation warrants.
The driver will be fired for putting false information on his application, Gilbert said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.