Golden Richards is finally at rest.

He was a blur of an athlete, a bona fide superstar.

He died Friday at his home at the age of 73. He lived a life larger than dreams can paint. But like we read in Job, 5:7: “... Man is born into trouble as the sparks fly upward.”

It is this way for most humans. It’s how Golden lived and died.

My perspective on the former BYU and Dallas Cowboys receiver and return specialist may differ from many. To me, I wanted to be like him. I wanted to wear No. 22 because it signified speed. Golden wore that number in college. His name was Golden. How cool was that? His signature blond hair flowing out the back of his helmet, his white cleats, his speed were all trademarks.

NFL Films produced a vignette on Golden Richards, a profile by Steve Sabol, which captures key moments of his playmaking with the Cowboys. You can see it here.

Back at Granite High in Salt Lake City, Golden Richards seemed part Steve McQueen, part Hercules. He could chase the shadows, outsprint the rising sun.

Miami Dolphins speedster Mercury Morris wore No. 22. Cowboys speedster Bob Hayes wore No 22. So, when Golden Richards came along and chose No. 22, it said to the world, “You can’t beat me.” He wore No. 22 briefly with the Cowboys before donning No. 83.

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Former BYU football star and Dallas Cowboys receiver Golden Richards has died at the age of 73

I never got to wear No. 22 because corneal transplants and contact lenses didn’t mix with getting hit or looking over my shoulder for a pass; they often just popped out. I had to quit football my sophomore year at Provo High. Well, to tell the truth, I was cut. I became a sprinter in track instead.

It was in the spring of 1969 when I lined up in the starting blocks at the Snow College invitational track meet to run a heat in the 100-yard dash. Two lanes down was Granite High sensation Golden Richards, the fastest high school athlete in Utah.

Now, I wasn’t a super track star, but my strength was the 100 and the best part of my race was getting out of the blocks, getting a lead, and hoping to keep it by 50 yards when my short legs would give way to those with the gazelle-type strides. In a few races I got lucky and they couldn’t catch me.

But on that day, as the gun went off and I thrust my body forward, I looked up and Golden had me by at least three steps. It was over. He was the fastest starter I’d ever witnessed at that point in my life.

Golden was the bona fide, in the flesh, rightful owner of No. 22. 

He went on to win the state title in the 100 and the 4x400 relay. He was a consistent 23-foot long jumper and had an effort of 25 feet at the Golden West Invitational. He had a leap of 23 feet, six inches in the state championship, a quarter inch off the record set by Neil Roberts, who later played basketball at BYU.

During the next few years, Golden played at BYU and set records for punt returns, two for TDs in one game. He was so fast that head coach Tommy Hudspeth moved him over to defensive back for a few games because he was the only player on the team who could keep up with receivers for ASU and Arizona.

Over 40 yards, Golden may have been the fastest in the world in his day.

Some days, I’d see Golden come across the street from BYU and attend Provo High football games. He was friendly, kind, accommodating, and a star with a bigger-than-life personality.

As the years passed and turned into decades, I followed his NFL career and life as a retiree where he struggled with health issues.

Many in this generation like to tune in to watch 49ers linebacker Fred Warner or New Orleans’ Taysom Hill or Balitmore’s Kyle Van Noy. Some were into watching Steve Young back in his Super Bowl MVP days. But, back then in Utah, you had to watch Golden Richards and Danny White of the Cowboys, two Latter-day Saint boys.

When Golden got to Dallas, he ended up beating out Bob Hayes, who he’d also beat in the 40-yard dash at the Cowboys’ training facility.

I feel better now that Golden Richards beat me in Ephraim. Bob Hayes couldn’t beat him in 40 yards in Dallas.

In just the past few years, Golden’s brother, Sterling, has received letters from Cowboys fans asking for Golden’s autograph. They have not forgotten their star and his epic Super Bowl TD catch against Denver.

Not too long ago his nephew, Tyler Richards, moved into my Orem neighborhood. We began golfing together in a neighborhood foursome. One day I saw Tyler’s father, former BYU guard Doug Richards, whom I’d talked to several times on the phone while researching the life of his teammate, hall of famer Kresimir Cosic.

Doug loves Golden dearly. Right before his little brother passed, he shared that he gave him a blessing along with his brother Sterling and Golden’s adult sons, a poignant tender moment in giving comfort to a sibling that had carried a lifetime of both stardom and challenges.

When Golden passed, he was physically a shell of his former self after battling Parkinson’s disease, addictions and multiple surgeries following a broken hip. He was cared for by hospice.

Doug felt inspired to release his brother, whose declining health had kept him bedridden for some time. A few hours later, Golden passed. They were just one year apart and teammates on basketball, football and baseball teams at Granite High. 

The Richards family had a giant front lawn and Doug remembers the early days when their father would throw a football as far as he could and Golden somehow just flew down the field and caught it. “We knew he was fast, very fast.”

Golden was a devoted brother, son, uncle and father. He was loved by so many people who came across his path. Those who knew him saw who he really was. They saw the fabric that made him such a complex story as he walked this earth as an athlete and avid hunter. He was a walking story and legend.

Golden didn’t make the big money today’s NFL players bank. His NFL pension was about $2,600 a month, according to Doug. “But he shared that with his sons. He was a gracious father.”

When Doug called me Friday morning to tell me of Golden’s passing earlier at 2 a.m., I was on the second hole at St. George Golf Club. When he hung up, I told the guys who were in my foursome that Golden Richards had died.

I told them of the day Golden smoked me and it only took five steps to do it.

It was a quiet moment of respect and acknowledgment that something significant had just happened. 

To me, it was a sobering moment that a No. 22, an idol I’d admired so much, was gone. It reminded me of a time when I thought wearing a letterman’s jacket and having a driver’s license were among the most important things in life.

Boy, did I have a lot to learn. We both did.

Rest in peace, Golden.

You deserve a well-earned respite from the sun you’ve been chasing for 73 years.

Dallas Cowboys Roger Staubach smiles up at Tony Dorsett during photo session, Jan. 11, 1978 for Super Bowl XII. Golden Richards (83) completes the picture. | Associated Press