Bucky Richardson 1991

Texas A&M quarterback Bucky Richardson finished 10th in the Heisman Trophy voting in 1991.

The situation would be frightening for most true freshmen.

Yet Bucky Richardson ran out onto Kyle Field, unaware of the circumstances surrounding the moment that night of Nov. 26, 1987.

Having grown up in SEC country, he was seemingly oblivious to the stakes surrounding the state's and the Southwest Conference's biggest and most anticipated game: Texas A&M and Texas.

"I wasn't around all the hoopla of the game for all those years," he says. "That probably helped me, looking back on it. It calmed me down a little bit. All I was really thinking was, 'Hey this is another game on the schedule.'"

Starting quarterback Craig Stump had gone down with a leg injury. It was late in the fourth quarter. Maintain a 13-13 tie? Head to the Bluebonnet Bowl. Lead a game-winning drive? Win the conference for the third consecutive season and earn a spot against Notre Dame in the Cotton Bowl.

"That's what that game was all about," he says. "A&M and Texas playing for the conference championship."

On the first play, he did what Aggies became so accustomed to during his career. He took the snap from under center, pirouetted to his right and ran the option. The defensive end committed to the tailback. So Richardson tucked it and ran. Twenty-one yards later, Richardson was amped up and Kyle Field was going bonkers. Later in the drive, A&M ran the same play. Richardson kept it again and scampered into the end zone with a 6-yard touchdown to give A&M a 20-13 win, which sealed another trip to Dallas.

Richardson grew up in Baton Rouge. It only seemed natural that he would stay in town and attend LSU. However, a coaching change from Jerry Stovall to Bill Arnsparger sent him looking elsewhere, and on a visit to A&M.

"I fell in love with the university right away," he says. "It felt right for me, so I went with my gut."

He arrived in 1987 as an undersized, running quarterback.

"I wasn't the most polished passer that has ever been through there, to say the least," he says. "Coming out of high school, I just didn't have the reps."

So he made do with what he did have: fast legs, a football intuition and a successful attitude.

"He had a winning personality, had great confidence, great toughness and was a natural born leader," says coach R.C. Slocum. "People followed and respected Bucky."

Life was made tougher when Richardson tore his ACL in the '88 game against Texas. The injury forced him to redshirt the following season — which happened to be the year Slocum replaced Jackie Sherrill.

"It's a very helpless feeling, because you can't help your teammates," he says of his injury. "You're there, but not a part of it. You feel like an outsider. And with it being [Slocum's] first year, I started thinking, 'Is he going to forget about me?'"

Slocum didn't. And in the following two years, Richardson became an Aggie icon. He put together a resume of wins, performances and memories that would go on to live in Aggie lore. Though he wasn't the most gifted thrower, his punishing style and toughness were synonymous with the era.

"I played hard," he says. "I played physical. When I was running the ball, I didn't hook slide often, if ever. That was the way I knew how to play. I didn't know anything different."

Richardson and the Aggies won the 1987 Cotton Bowl over powerhouse Notre Dame during his freshman season. He put up more than 400 yards of total offense during the 1989 Holiday Bowl dismantling of BYU, when Heisman Trophy Ty Detmer had both his shoulders separated.

In 1991, his senior season, A&M went 10-1 with a lone 35-34 upset loss to lowly Tulsa.

"Looking back on it, that's a game we'd win nine out of 10 times," he says.

But still, he led the Aggies to its first SWC Championship under Slocum and he finished 10th in the 1991 Heisman Trophy voting after going for 1,940 total yards and 18 touchdowns.

"It was a great year and something we talk about to this day," he says.

He ranks 16th in rushing and 15th in passing in program history. Oh, and he went 3-1 against Texas.

Through it all, he continued to be the unquestioned team leader.

"His commitment, excitement and enthusiasm rubbed off on other guys," Slocum says. "I'm proud to say I coached him."

Richardson went on to play for five seasons in the NFL, for the Houston Oilers (who drafted him in the eighth round of the ’92 draft), along with the Dallas Cowboys and Kansas City Chiefs.

"It was a dream come true," he says.

Though he enjoyed his NFL days, Richardson said that his time at A&M was the most fun he's ever had. He now lives in Houston and returns with his family frequently to a place where he became revered, where he became known as just "Bucky."

Not bad for an undersized quarterback from the Bayou who — until that chilly November night in 1987 — was unknown and unheralded. Until he took the snap and reversed right.

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