Howard Richards: From the NFL to the CIA

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Howard Richards

Former Seahawks offensive lineman Howard Richards had a longer career in the CIA than in the NFL.

Richards attended the University of Missouri, starting 40 consecutive games at right tackle. He earned a bachelor’s degree in radio, television and film, and spent time working at the CBS television affiliate in Jefferson City, Mo., fulfilling duties in both the news and sports departments.

Taken by the Dallas Cowboys in the first round of the 1981 NFL Draft,  Richards was an offensive lineman in the 1981-1986 seasons. He helped the Cowboys win four NFC East Division championships, along with making consecutive appearances in the 1982 and 1983 NFC championship games.

In 1987, after the NFL players went on a strike in the third week of the season, those games were canceled (reducing the 16 game season to 15) and the NFL decided that upcoming games would be played with replacement players. Richards was signed by the Seahawks on October 7 to be a part of their replacement team. He played in 2 games before suffering a knee injury in an October 18 game against the Detroit Lions and was placed on the injured reserve list.

He retired from the NFL at the end of the 1987 season.

“You learn very quickly how different it is playing in the NFL as opposed to the college level,” said Richards. “I was surrounded by all these people that I grew up admiring and then all of a sudden they were my teammates—great teammates with whom I still have great relationships.”

Following his retirement, Richards worked for 13 years at the Central Intelligence Agency, where he served on the security staffs of four CIA directors, along with serving a tour of duty in Tel Aviv, Israel, where his duties included personnel and physical security, and liaison and security coordination in Gaza and the West Bank between the Israeli and Palestinian governments.

“I did some very unique things,” he said. “I saw a number of ‘interesting’ things that people will never get the chance to hear about, but would be most thankful for because they keep the world safe and people alive.”

After leaving the federal government in 2003, Richards began a career as a licensed realtor in northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., taking advantage of the opportunities of the exploding real estate market during the early- to mid-2000s.

In 2011, Richards began his duties at Harris-Stowe State University as executive director of institutional security and development.  He manages a 24-hour force of 20 staff officers and five contract security officers who are responsible for providing a safe, secure environment on two campuses for students, faculty and staff.

Richards is the president of SevenZero, Ltd., a small security-consulting business that he began in 2008.  The business spawned from former relationships developed from Richards’ employment in the federal government.  SevenZero provides specialized security consulting and support services to private industry executives and former federal government officials as they travel internationally.

Richards is a color analyst

Richards is also in his sixth season as a football color analyst at Missouri, and he serves as the university’s Senior Manager, External Relations for the College of Arts and Science.

He is very active in his community. Richards serves as an advisory board member for Segs4Vets Foundation, a Spirit of Hope Award-winning foundation that provides Segway personal transport vehicles to severely wounded military veterans to assist them in regaining their mobility and to improve their quality of life. And he is also involved as a board member for the Gerry Bertier #42 Foundation, which raises funds for spinal-cord research and individuals who have suffered spinal-cord injuries.

Keeping his NFL roots active, Richards was among the group that revitalized the NFL Alumni Players St. Louis Chapter a few years back, for the purpose of using the camaraderie to do community service and promote the welfare of its members.

Richards’ job at Missouri involves using his voice and being a voice. He gets to use his voice doing the color commentary for the games on Saturdays, but the rest of the week he is able to be a voice of hope to inner city kids.

“Now I get to come back and tell these kids about my experience from age 18 to where I am now,” he said. “I encourage them that any kid in my situation can do the same thing.”