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06/18/2014

To my friend, Richard Durrett, who never knew how much he meant

HawiiThere comes a point when life takes away more than it gives, but we don't expect that process to begin at 38.

Like so many members of the media in this region on Tuesday evening, learning about the death of ESPN Dallas reporter Richard Durrett was a miserably sad moment that will serve as a marker for myself and many others. I am so sad for his two little kids. So sad for his wife, Kelly, whom he had dated since their days at TCU. Mostly, I am sad for Richard.

My friend of nearly 20 years is gone at 38. I never did get to tell him what his decency, friendship and relentless kindness meant to me. He had no idea what I thought about him. Maybe it's a guy thing. Or maybe it's an alive thing.

Mine is a well earned reputation that spares no one from either playful or sincere ribbing, and yet about this man I would never have dared say a bad word - sincere or no.

I have known Richard since my days as a graduate assistant in the media relations office at TCU, in 1996. Richard was an undergrad, and an aspiring radio play by play voice. He was the voice of TCU women's basketball, and eventually he asked me to join him as his color analyst.

Hawii2For two years we roomed together on the road. We did games together on the air. Those teams became a tight community of friends, and the two of us spent a lot of time together. Just sitting here and I can recall ... so much. 

Richard was my TCU running buddy, and without him my experience there would not have been as full, fun or memorable. We were two sports dorks running around, living on nothing, and I don't think either of us realized how much fun we had. We were an odd pair - he was the straight man to my rather peculiar personality.

He was my roomate to places such as San Jose, San Diego, Las Vegas, New Orleans, Albquerque, El Paso, Provo, Salt Lake City, Fresno, Honolulu, etc. Going out on the strip in Vegas with Richard was an experience.

One night, after we arrived to San Jose in 1997, I realized I did not have my car keys. I feared I had somehow left them in the door of my car, which was at the TCU basketball arena. He called his girlfriend, Kelly, who went to my car and retrieved the keys.

One afternoon in Hawaii, myself, TCU women's basketball trainer Kristin Lage and Richard rented a car and spent all day driving around the island. We stopped at the North Shore to look at the waves, and I suggested we swim around. The current and undertow were intense, and I can recall Richard coming out of the water with this giant smile. 

This top picture is of Richard and I on the North Shore. The next is of Richard at a famous statue in Honolulu.

Richard was a unique combination of decency, and intensity. He could get very worked up about something, but he was never mad. He was never uncomfortable to be around. Ever. 

Many may not know this, but Richard was a member of the TCU band. For those of us who knew Richard, the image of Richard wearing a university band outfit is ... appropriate. 
Many may not know this, but Richard actually came from a well off home. You would never know it because he lived so modest, and so clean. And he worked just so hard in a profession that is not super lucrative.

Shortly before I was preparing for a backpacking trip to Europe in '98, Richard bought me a few things that he thought I might need. A book about Europe. A set of keys and locks for a backpack. An air pillow to sleep. He just did it.

A few years later, he was the PR director for the minor league Fort Worth Fire hockey team. I will always recall his voice on the phone when he called me to tell me, in a very hushed tone, the team was shutting down operations. He was giving me a "big scoop" because we were friends.

And then, as happens to most of us, life gets busy. He and Kelly came to our wedding reception in Fort Worth. We exchanged Christmas cards. We would chat at professional events, and that was about it.

In 2003, he and I were competitors covering the Dallas Stars. He was at the Dallas Morning News. We were in the press box in the American Airlines Center, and after a game he was struggling. I had one year's of experience already in the bank of covering that team, and a source that gave me everything. 

As a competitor, I should have rejoiced. But this was my friend. He said he didn't think he was doing a very good job, that he didn't follow his gut. I remember telling him he knew every bit as much as me, if not more, and to trust his instinct. 

It was the one time I felt I did something for him after he had done nothing but show me kindness and decency for so long.

A few weeks ago, I heard he was going to fill in for Eric Nadel as the Rangers' play by play voice for one broadcast. I was thrilled for Richard because I knew that this is what he wanted to do. I Tweeted and texted him a few congratulatory and words of encouragement. He texted back, "Thanks. It was a bucket list."

That was the last I heard from him. How do you know you are never going to see someone again? 

Now he's gone. Gone from his kids. Gone from his wife. Gone from his mom, dad and brother. Gone from so many of us who enjoyed seeing him.

The whole thing makes me so sad to the point of tears, and mad ... mad because I never did get to say thank you.

@MacEngelProf
tengel@star-telegram.com
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Comments

John Lamberth

Mac, I'm so sorry. I wasn't anywhere near as close to Rich as you were, but he and I were friends when I was at TCU. He and I worked at KTCU (and The Skiff) together, although I was more music based, but we spent many hours in the KTCU offices together.
I wasn't part of the "sports club" but I did get to "produce" "SportsTalk" a couple of times. And what I will always remember about Rich was that he was PASSIONATE about sports and the man could talk. I learned not to start a sports conversation with Rich unless you had a good chunk of time.
The last time I saw/spoke to Rich in person was at the ESPN GameDay broadcast for TCUvUtah. He saw me and actually remembered me and took a moment out of working to say "hi."

Rich was one of a kind and the world is truly a little darker without him in it.

David Hunter

Mr. Engle, Thank you for letting us in and sharing with us what it was like to know Richard Durrett. I never had the good fortune of meeting Mr. Durrett in person, but have been entertained on many an occasion by his voice coming in on my radio and his writing coming through on the interweb. My condolences go out to his family and friends. And to you kind Sir, I would like to say, he knew, good friends always know.

Mike Rhyner

Love reading such great thoughts from one who was fortunate to know him far better than I...it's a sad day

Javier E. Najera

Mac,

Thank you for this great tribute to Richard. Like many others, I enjoyed his sports contributions in the various ways he provided them. I'm so sorry for his family, especially his wife and children...

Given my chosen profession, I see your sentiment everyday -- running out of time to say something, to do something. When I introduced myself to you and your family the other night at the ballpark, my cousin (from out of town) turned all shades of red for my randomness (as he called it) to speak to people I don't know.

And, while I had never met you all in person, I read as much of your pieces as well as Jennifer's, and certainly enjoyed her radio time with Galloway. The piont is, I know -- literally and on a daily basis -- how critical it is to say and do what you need to. We only have what we have right now. We might never meet again necessarily, but I am grateful for a couple of minutes where I was able to thank you for your work and the pleasure of meeting you guys.

Carpe diem...

Requiescat in pace, Richard.

Troy Claycamp

I have a picture standing in front of that same statue. Makes the story more real somehow. My thoughts and prayers go out to his and family and his friends.

Dawn Kinnaman

"What moves through us is a silence, a quiet sadness, a longing for one more day, one more word, one more touch. We may not understand why you left this earth so soon, or why you left before we were ready to say good-bye. Little by little, we begin to remember not just that you died, but that you lived, that your life gave us memories too beautiful to forget and begin to smile through our tears".

Although you're mourning now, may your sorrow and tears soon be replaced with smiles when you remember the cherished memories of your friend.

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