!SPARTANBURG, S.C. – Carolina Panthers Owner/Founder Jerry Richardson, a 1959 graduate of Wofford College, had his number 51 jersey retired by the school during a ceremony at halftime of Wofford's home game against Elon on Saturday.
Richardson, who starred at receiver for the Terriers from 1956-58, still holds several school records. But the honor has just as much to do with his accomplishments off the field after his playing days.
"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," Wofford College President Dr. Benjamin Dunlap said. "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 Richardsons than Jerry himself. Like all great players, he takes his teammates with him to greater heights."
Richardson calls being elected Wofford team captain in 1958 his greatest honor, even with all he accomplished on the field. An Associated Press Little All-America selection in 1957 and 1958, Richardson still holds school records for the most career touchdown receptions with 21 and most touchdown catches in a season with nine in 1958. His 241 yards receiving against Newberry in 1956 still stand as a single-game record. As a senior in 1958, Richardson scored 72 points on nine touchdowns, 12 extra points and two field goals.
In addition to his success 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.
The Baltimore Colts selected Richardson in the 13th round of the 1959 draft. He played two seasons in the NFL, earning Colt Rookie of the Year honors in 1959 and catching a touchdown pass in the 1959 NFL Championship game from quarterback Johnny Unitas before retiring to pursue a business career.
He returned to Spartanburg and co-founded Spartan Foods, which was the first franchisee of Hardee's. He later was the CEO of Flagstar, the sixth-largest food service company in the nation at the time.
On Oct. 26, 1993, Richardson became just the second former NFL player to own a team when the Carolinas were awarded the NFL's 29th franchise. The Panthers began play in 1995 and reached the NFC Championship the next year. During the 2003 season, Carolina won the NFC Championship and advanced to Super Bowl XXVIII. Throughout their history, the Panthers have held training camp at Wofford.
A native of Fayetteville, N.C., Richardson is just the second person to have his number retired by Wofford and is the only person to be inducted into both the North Carolina and South Carolina Business and Athletic Halls of Fame.