This time, however, he won’t have to worry about meetings, bus duty or any of the other duties connected to teaching.
Retired as an educator, all he’ll have to do is go to practice and coach East Paulding’s defensive line.
“It’s been a while and I’m having a good time right now,” said the 59-year-old Richards, who spent more than three decades at Marietta as a player, assistant coach and head coach before stepping down following the 2009 season.
East Paulding coach Chuck Goddard, with help from secondary coach Rus Rainey — a member of Richards’ staff at Marietta — got him back into coaching after a 3½-year break.
When East Paulding defensive coordinator Andy Szatkowski left for another position at Villa Rica, Richards had just finished up his part-time teaching duties at Marietta and was heading into full retirement.
Szatkowski’s departure led to a trickle-down effect that opened a role on the Raiders’ staff, and Rainey suggested Richards to Goddard, a former Wheeler head coach and assistant at Walton. Goddard was enthused with the idea, so Rainey contacted Richards and set up an interview.
Goddard said one of his first questions to Richards, simply enough, was “Do you want to coach?”
According to Goddard, Mount Paran Christian and Reinhardt University also interviewed Richards for assistant-coaching positions, but it was East Paulding that closed the deal.
“We’re just blessed to have him,” Goddard said. “He created relationships with our kids instantly and overnight. He has such an electric personality. When they do something great, he gets excited. At first, I didn’t know what to expect, but it couldn’t have worked out better. He’s just ‘Friday.’ I don’t know what else to say.”
Rainey said seeing Richards coaching again brought back memories of their Marietta coaching days. Richards still sprays his players with water during practice to cool them off. Rainey also said that Richards awards the hardest-working player or players with a cold bottle of Powerade, while the others watch that player drink.
Richards still conducts his football board drill, a favorite of his in which defensive linemen face each other 1-on-1 in a three-point stance and push each other after the whistle blows until one falls down.
“It’s just like old times,” Rainey said. “I’m on one side of the field and he’s on the other, and I can hear him and it’s all the same stuff I heard 20 years ago. It’s the way he motivates kids.”
One thing that’s still missing right now is that football stick Richards carried around at every Marietta practice. A device used to help linemen react to the ball instead of the snap, it’s uncertain if the coaches will provide Richards with one or if he will make one himself, Rainey said.
When asked about a possible return of the football stick, Richards only laughed and said, “I don’t know about all that. I’m just here to help.”
Richards, a product of French Johnson’s final Marietta teams before graduating in 1972 and playing at the University of Florida, compiled a 107-58 record during his 15-year stint as the head coach of his alma mater, following time as an assistant to Ray Broadaway and Dexter Woods. He took the Blue Devils to the playoffs 10 times, won four region titles and sent more than 100 players to college on football scholarships.