Richards has an eye for football talent

Rich McGuinness, founder of the U.S. Army All-American game, was looking for someone to run his youth football camps.

He inquired around the country for someone with an eye for talent and a background in youth sports.

One name kept coming up.

"I looked around the country to see who was one of the real leaders in youth football and Erik Richards' name kept popping up," McGuinness said.

Richards, the long-standing Gwinnett Football League president, was in the middle of a two-year semi-retirement from the automotive industry.

When McGuinness approached him about the opportunity to run football camps for some of the nation's top youth athletes, it was the dream job for Richards.

"All the volunteering led me to do something I love doing," Richards said.

For the last five years, Richards has been the director of youth football for Football University. Each year he works with 8,000 kids in 40 cites from sixth to 11th grade, improving their football skills.

He's responsible for running FBU's Top Gun camp, an elite level camp held in late July. Richards also runs the Eastbay Youth All-American Bowl, an all-star game for middle school football players.

Both events are watched by a careful eye from recruiting services and Richards tries to keep the events fun by doing a dance before each camp.

"I try to loosen it up for the kids," Richards said. "They come in so tense with so much riding on one pass or one catch. They want me to learn the wobble and update my dance moves."

Running FBU's Top Gun and the Eastbay Youth bowl are just some of the titles Richards holds in addition to being the GFL president. He was recently named Southeast recruiter for the U.S. Army All-American Game.

"That's all the titles I want, believe me," Richards said with a laugh.

Richards has been around Gwinnett County football for more than 30 years. He was born and raised in Duluth, graduating from Duluth High School in 1984. He was a freshman on the 1980 state runner-up team and played with Heisman Trophy winner George Rogers.

Richards built a name for himself nationally by working with the GFL. He's served as the league's president for more than 20 years and has watched some of the county's best players grow up from the youth leagues to the pros.

"I was around great youth football for 23 years with the GFL, so I developed an eye for talent," Richards said.

The GFL has produced NFL players Rennie Curran, Michael Palmer, Jon Stinchcomb, Davey Pollack and David Greene.

"We kept having U.S. Army All-Americans that were coming out of his county, his ZIP code, so I said I had to meet this guy," McGuinness said. "He's been nothing but sensational."

Richards was tabbed by Rivals national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell as 'The Dean of Youth Football' because of his uncanny ability to spot top talent at a young age.

"He's an innovator in the youth football community," McGuinness said. "He really had a sense of development. He had a system and a program and got the right coaches to the table."

Richards' job has taken him around the U.S., meeting some of the nation's top football prospects and their parents, such as rapper Snoop Dogg, whose son Cordell Broadus is a budding football recruit.

It's a job many football fans dream of having and one Richards cherishes everyday.

"If I were to leave tomorrow, there would be a line around the Georgia Dome to get this job," Richards said.