U of A Honors First African American Scholarship Football Player

Officials and family will dedicate a plaque commemorating Jon Richardson Saturday morning.

Former Razorback football player, the late Jon Richardson
Photos courtesy of the University of Arkansas Athletics Department.

The late Jon Richardson broke the color barrier as the first African American scholarship football player at the University of Arkansas when he stepped onto the field more than 50 years ago. Razorback Athletics will honor the Little Rock native and other trailblazers during a ceremony at Difference Makers Plaza Saturday morning. 

Richardson’s journey helped shape the future of the university, creating opportunities for thousands of future students. It’s fitting to celebrate Richardson’s legacy, recognizing him as a “Difference Maker” for the football team, the U of A campus and the state, vice chancellor and athletics director Hunter Yurachek said. 

“The courage and determination displayed by Richardson, and many other Razorback trailblazers, helped strengthen the University of Arkansas,” Yurachek said. “We are grateful for their contributions and for the lasting positive impact of their dedication.”  

Former Razorback Jon Richardson running on the football fieldRichardson lettered for Coach Frank Broyles’ Razorbacks from 1970-72. The tailback was second on the team in rushing in 1970 with 441 yards and nine touchdowns on 104 carries, according to a press release. He ranked third on the squad with 17 receptions for 240 yards and a score on a team that went 9-2 and finished the season ranked No. 11 in the nation in his sophomore season.

In 1971, Richardson was third on the team with 483 yards rushing and three touchdowns on 104 carries, including a career-best effort of 154 yards and two touchdowns in a win over Oklahoma State. He hauled in 13 catches for 87 yards in helping the Hogs to an 8-3-1 mark and a No. 16 national ranking.

As a senior, he ranked second on the team with 313 yards on 97 attempts and led the squad with seven touchdowns. He tallied 14 receptions for 105 yards, ranking him fourth on the squad. He broke a school record with 501 kickoff return yards in his final collegiate campaign. His 19 rushing touchdowns still ranks on the UA career record list.

Richardson was inducted into the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 2008. He died in 2015 and was posthumously inducted into the Southwest Conference Hall of Fame in 2019, along with eight other Razorbacks.

Yurachek will be joined by interim chancellor Charles Robinson and members of Richardson’s family who will dedicate a plaque in his honor Saturday. The plaque is being installed on the Difference Makers Plaza, which is located at the northwest corner of Donald W. Reynolds Razorback Stadium near Gate 10. The event begins at 9:45 a.m. and is free and open to the public. 

In addition to the Difference Makers plaque dedication, the Jon Richardson family will be the honored guests at the lighting of Razorback Stadium at 7:40 p.m. Friday. They will also serve as honorary captains for the Homecoming game against Auburn, which begins at 11 a.m. Saturday.