How can Jerry Richardson need a new heart? That seems impossible – and unfair.
Richardson, 72, has been put on a heart transplant waiting list. But the Panthers founder and owner has long had one of the biggest hearts in the Carolinas. He has given untold millions of people joy by spearheading the drive to bring the NFL here. The Carolina Panthers were his before he shared them with all of us – his enormous, unlikely vision.
I’ve heard hundreds of stories about Richardson over the years. Almost all of them relate to his Everyman touch.
Richardson was driving around in his golf cart and stopped at a fan’s tailgate party to shoot the breeze: that’s a common one. Or someone was in the hospital and who appeared out of nowhere at their bedside? Richardson. Or Richardson would invite a player to his home for good food and fatherly advice (and, sometimes, a stern talking-to).
Most people still call him “Mr. Richardson” – even staff members who have known him for years. The former NFL player cuts an intimidating figure. He looks like a “Mister.” Some veteran Panther players who have known him for years dare to call him “The Big Cat.”
Richardson also has one of the most infectious laughs I’ve ever heard – an absolute cackle that makes me grin just to think about it.
Maybe Richardson’s heart has begun to wear out because he has used it so much. My prayers go out to him.
And a warning to his doctors: When you find a new heart for the Big Cat, it better be the XXXL model.