Note: The following appears in the South Carolina gameday football program
For the last six years, head coach Dabo Swinney has presented the Brian Dawkins Lifetime Achievement Award to a former Tiger who has consistently demonstrated the qualities of leadership, community service and other high qualities that are consistent with excellence since graduating from Clemson.
A recipient must be out of school at least 10 years. Brian Dawkins, who played 16 years in the NFL, is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame and was honored for his community service activities in his career. Dawkins was the first recipient and namesake of the award.
This year’s recipient is Mark Richardson, and he is being recognized today.
“Brian Dawkins epitomizes everything you strive to be on and off the field when it comes to being a Clemson football player,” said Swinney. “Mark Richardson has all of those qualities as well, and we are pleased to present him with this year’s award.”
Richardson came to Clemson from Spartanburg, S.C., in 1979 and was a reliable defensive end for four years, including 1981, when the Tigers won the national championship. He played on two ACC championship teams as well.
“Coach Swinney has set a standard for this program, and it is an honor to receive the award,” said Richardson. “It is also a great honor to be associated with the past winners.
“Jerry Butler (2016 recipient) was one of the leaders of the 1978 team that I followed closely during my senior year of high school when I was deciding to come to Clemson. Bill Smith (2014 recipient) and Jeff Davis (2017 recipient) were teammates of mine at Clemson.”
Richardson took the time to give some credit to his former head coach, Danny Ford.
“Coach Ford had the same goals for his players after they finished playing as coach Swinney. He cared about us and our future. I am proud to say I am the fourth former Danny Ford player to receive this award.”
Richardson was a reserve defensive end during the run to the 1981 national title. One game stands out that season. In November, No. 2 Clemson traveled to No. 8 North Carolina in the first battle of top-10 teams in ACC history. It was a special game for the Richardson family, because Mark’s late brother, Jon, was a senior wideout for the Tar Heels.
He played 23 snaps in that game, where Mark tackled his brother, the only time brothers were involved in a tackle on opposing teams in a Tiger game.
“Everyone thought I would follow my brother to North Carolina, but I didn’t want to be known as Jon’s little brother.
“That was an incredible game, a defensive struggle, but we came out on top.”
Clemson won the contest 10-8, a huge victory in the Tigers’ drive to the national title. Richardson added three tackles in Clemson’s win over Nebraska in the 1982 Orange Bowl.
He has had incredible success in real estate and as an owner of several restaurant franchises. He is best known in his role as president of the Carolina Panthers and was significantly involved in bringing the Panthers to Memorial Stadium for their inaugural season in 1995. The franchise reached the final four of the NFL playoffs in its second year and later played in the Super Bowl.
“That was a shocker…you never know what is possible. To be a student-athlete with the school and then come back to serve the university as a trustee is something that brings me a lot of pride.
“Great things are taking place at Clemson University in so many areas. That includes athletics, but also academics and research. As I travel around the country, I see great pride in the Tiger Paw and this (Clemson class) ring.”
Richardson is involved in many programs at Clemson, but two stand out. First, he is one of the mentors in Swinney’s Tigerhood Program. He has been a mentor for All-America defensive end Austin Bryant for three years.
“I have gained more from that relationship with Austin than he has from me. I am so proud of the person he has become.”
Richardson is also among the most active participants in the Emerging Scholars Program. It provides support to Clemson students who come from schools that have been identified as institutions that have had high dropout rates. He has provided financial assistance for 40 students above what they qualify for in terms of financial aid, thus allowing them to attend Clemson.
“We have a responsibility to help, and it is a rewarding program for those of us who can provide assistance. It is a program that is making a difference for outstanding young men and women who need help in coming to Clemson.”