Football coaches dream of finding a player who possesses elite athleticism, physical and mental toughness to play through injury, a competitive drive to win at everything he does, and the professionalism to work at his craft until he is the best. When such special players land on a squad, coaches are quick to praise. Something along the line as, "I wish I had a whole team of (insert said name here)."
In 1952, just five months after California All-American was drafted with the second pick overall by the New York Yanks, the Dallas Texans (who had received his rights from the Yanks franchise that had folded two days after the draft) received an entire squad of eleven players from the Los Angeles Rams in exchange for the hometown guard- linebacker. Head coach Joe Stydahar was ecstatic when owner Dan Reeves made the announcement.
"We regretted giving up many of the boys," said Stydahar "I feel they will be a definite help to Dallas. However, the Rams have always regarded Richter as one of the country's greatest football players and we're sure he'll be a tremendous help to us."
Les, after serving two years of military service in Korea as an Army lieutenant, made his Rams debut on Sept. 25, 1954 against the Baltimore Colts. The versatile Richter played on both the offensive and defensive platoons, and connected on one field goal and four extra points as he held down the place kicking duties during the 48-0 victory over the Colts. Les continued his consistent play throughout the season and finished his rookie year as the team's second-leading scorer with 62 points on 38 extra points (38-38) and eight field goals (8-15). He also added an interception on defense which he returned for a 24-yard gain. For his efforts Richter was selected to the first of eight consecutive Pro Bowls (1955-1962).
This Rams publicity shots depicts the Richter trade and what 11 players for one looks like.
The following season Richter continued to develop as a player and for the first of two consecutive years (1955-56) he led the team in scoring when he connected on 31-32 extra points and added 13 field goals (which tied the Rams all-time record at the time) for a total of 69 points. L.A. won their final three games in '55 to finish at 8-3-1 as Richter made good on his final seven field goal attempts of the regular season including a 26-yard game winner against the Philadelphia Eagles with seven seconds remaining. His kick helped the Rams finish one spot ahead of the Chicago Bears in the Western Conference.
Perhaps his biggest growth came on the defensive side of the ball. His toughness made him a wall against the run while his intelligence and aggressiveness helped him become one of the undisputed leaders in the Rams' locker room. Les attributed his success to desire.
"Desire is 80% of the game," he said, "Everybody has the ability or they wouldn't be out there. It is the one with the desire who gets the most out of it."
Richter's desire was unquestioned and unfortunately it translated too many of his opponents viewing his aggressiveness as outside the limits of the rules. Les never let the label of "a dirty player" change the way he approached the game. He once explained that, "The football field is no place for sentiment. I'm not sure my own grandmother would be safe if she made the mistake of wearing a uniform of the wrong color."
The Rams, for nine seasons, reaped the benefit of Richter's tenacity. He was the bedrock for which the Rams were built upon. During his 112-game career he fought through a fractured cheekbone, busted ribs, a broken hand and toe, a trick knee as well as more lacerations, bruises and aches to count. Through it all he never missed a single game and played at any position the team needed filled, middle linebacker, offensive guard, center, or placekicker. His athletic ability allowed him to do it all.
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He was named the Rams' Most Valuable Player three times 1956, 1957 and 1960. Even at the end of his career Richter played with the passion of a rookie. A question was posed to head coach Bob Waterfield about whether Les had slowed up and was hurting the defense.
Waterfield replied, "Slow up? Hurting us? Let me tell you, I hate to think how bad we would be without Richter. If I had 36 like him, I would laugh at the rest of the league!"