50 GREATEST GOLDEN BEARS - #11 - LES RICHTER#11 - LES RICHTER - GUARD/LINEBACKER (1949-1951)
How good was Les Richter? The Los Angeles Rams traded 11 players to Dallas in 1952 to acquire his services; Richter had yet to play his first professional game.
At Cal Richter played guard and linebacker, and also kicked field goals and extra points. On offense, he was a road grader who paved the way for Johnny Olszewski to set Cal records. But Richter shone brightest on defense, where his combination of strength and lateral pursuit shut down the middle of the field for opposing offenses. Cal went 27-4-1 during Richter's time on the varsity, and it's defenses surrendered an average of 12 points per game. In 1950, Richter's breakout All-American year, the Bears allowed only two opponents to score in double digits - St. Mary's in a 40-25 shootout and Michigan in Cal's 14-6 Rose Bowl defeat.
Richter was twice a consensus choice for All-America honors as a linebacker, and he was named to the all-time Pacific Coast Conference team. Following The Trade, Richter served two years as an Army 1st Lieutenant during the Korean conflict, and then nine more with the Rams, qualifying for eight Pro Bowls in the era of Nitschke, Schmidt and other great NFL linebackers.
Like many of the 50 Greatest, Richter has had a fascinating career after football. In 1959 he had worked with a group that included Bob Hope to purchase the Riverside Raceway, which had fallen into disrepair. Richter's group fixed the track up and started a motor sports revival in Southern California. In retirement, Richter became President of the Raceway, and then went on to serve as Executive Vice President of the California Speedway and a Senior Vice President for NASCAR. Like our previous honoree Sam Chapman, Richter has in some ways gained greater fame in a second sport, but we'll remember him fondly as Cal's greatest linebacker ever and a deserving #11 on the 50 Greatest list.