MARIETTA, Ga. - This week the Marietta High School community has been gathering to mourn the loss of a giant. James "Friday" Richards, former football coach of the Marietta Blue Devils, died unexpectedly Sunday at the age of 64.
"Football coach," only begins to describe who this man was, and what he meant to kids, colleagues and the complete strangers he came in contact with.
His acts of generosity and compassion are legendary. He and his wife, Dorothy famously took in many troubled youths to live with them. There are many, many stories like that. I, like hundreds of others, have been on the receiving end of his kindness, and I have never forgotten it. He simply loved people and knew how to talk to them.
Coach Friday, as he was affectionately known, was himself a Marietta High School alum. An all-state running back in 1971 who went on to play at the University of Florida. After a brief NFL career, he came home and that's where his true calling emerged.
It is impossible to change the world all by yourself. You can only do that one person --one child-- at a time, and Coach Friday did a masterful job of that. I wonder if he knew what he meant to us. I suspect he felt he was just doing the right thing.
Like a loving and gregarious gardener, he planted seeds. He cultivated, coached and cheered them on. The world was his garden, and the lives this great human being nurtured are in turn helping others.
Yes, the passing of Coach Friday is a painful one to everybody who knew him. But there is no need to feel lost, for he has left us all with a map on how to live a meaningful life.
So, as we approach a new and exciting high school football season to join me in honoring this man by taking the time to notice and learn more about those around you. Random acts of love and kindness can and do change lives.
Do yourself a favor and enjoy the season for what it is. An opportunity to gather with others in celebrating life!
Don't get too caught up with who's being recruited by who, and how many stars they have next to their name. I believe it is still about the high school experience and the people you interact with every day. If you never saw these people again, what would their lasting impression of you be?
These are the days and moments that shape young lives. Thankfully, there are people like Coach James "Friday" Richards that devote their lives to making a difference.
That is the beauty and the power of high school football AND COACH FRIDAY IS A BIG REASON WHY.
Saturday - private funeral at Zion Baptist Church, 165 Lemon Street.