Richard Herbert Rich
An All-SEC (Southeastern Conference) safety at Vanderbilt, Rich was an All-Pro defensive back and a member of two NFL Championship teams in the 1950s (the Rams in 1951 and the Giants in 1956). Rich earned his law degree in 1954 and then continued to play in the NFL for two more seasons.
Birth and Death Dates:
b. October 7, 1928
Rich was an outstanding player for Vanderbilt in the late 1940s when the Commodores were one of the best programs in the nation. After being named All-State (Florida) in football, basketball, and baseball in high school, in 1946 Herb earned letters in all three sports as a freshman at Vanderbilt. Beginning in his sophomore year, Herb decided to concentrate solely on football.
As a junior in 1948, Rich led Vanderbilt in rushing, carrying the ball 95 times for 514 yards (5.4 average), including two 100-yard games against Mississippi (101) and Yale (131). Herb was named AP All-SEC second team as the Commodores finished the season with a record of 8-2-1 (including a 28-6 victory over Tennessee) and a No. 11 ranking.
The following year, the Commodores struggled to a record of 5-5-0, but the mediocre season was no fault of Rich. He repeated as the team's top rusher with 177 carries (fourth most in the nation) for 668 yards, still 11th all-time in Vanderbilt history. Against Georgia Tech, Rich gained 102 yards and was named AP All-SEC for the second consecutive season.
In 1950, Rich was selected in the sixth round (67th overall) by the Baltimore Colts in the NFL Draft. That season, he had an outstanding year as a return specialist for the Colts. Rich said of his role as punt returner, "The guy who was supposed to be the punt returner didn't show...so, I volunteered and ran out on the field and returned the punt 86 yards for a touchdown." Herb finished the season with 12 punt returns for 273 yards for an incredible 23.0 yard average; it set an NFL record that still stands today!
After the 1950 season, the Baltimore franchise folded and Rich was picked up by the Los Angeles Rams. The following year, Herb played in seven games for the Rams, who defeated Cleveland, 24-17, for the NFL Championship.
In 1952, Herb had the best season of his career with eight interceptions, including a 97-yard touchdown return that is still a Rams record. That year, he was named first team All-Pro defensive back by UP and second team All-Pro by the Associated Press, but the Rams lost to the Detroit Lions in the National Conference playoffs, 32-21.
1954 proved to be a pivotal year for Rich, as he received his law degree and passed the Tennessee Bar; he was also acquired by the New York Giants. Although he wanted to begin his law career, Herb was convinced to return to the NFL to play for the Giants. He was a member of the 1956 Giants team when they defeated the Chicago Bears, 47-7, in the NFL Championship.
Herb retired following the 1956 season, having played in 64 career NFL games. In 1992, Rich was inducted into the Tennessee Sports Hall of Fame. In 2000, he was honored at the SEC Championship game where he was introduced during the pregame ceremonies as a collegiate and professional "legend."
Newark, New Jersey
Rich played halfback at Vanderbilt University from 1947-1949. He then played as a defensive back in the NFL with the Baltimore Colts in 1950, with the Los Angeles Rams from 1951-1953, and for the New York Giants from 1954-1956.
5'11", 181 pounds
In the NFL:
Interception return yards: 469
Interception returns for touchdowns: 3
Punt returns: 14
Punt return yards: 281
Punt return average: 20.1
Punt returns for touchdowns: 1
Kick returns: 17
Kick return yards: 434
Kick return average: 25.5