The only criticism I ever heard or had of my good friend and ESPNDallas.com colleague Richard Durrett was that he was just too darn nice for this business.
I have never met a more wholesome, clean-living man than Durrett, which makes his sudden death Tuesday at the age of 38 even more tragic. He did not have a shred of cynicism in him, which is about as rare and surprising in the sports media world as Bengie Molina hitting for the cycle was in baseball, a sport Durrett loved and covered with impeccable integrity, professionalism and skill in print, on radio and on television.
A doting dad of 6-year-old Owen and 3-year-old Alice and husband to Kelly, Durrett took who knows how long Sunday to send out “Happy Father’s Day” texts to who knows how many of his friends and acquaintances. Not a mass text. He personalized every single one and genuinely meant it. That’s just what kind of guy Durrett was, so friendly you’d just shake your head and smile at him sometimes.
There is not a more versatile sports journalist in the Dallas market than Durrett, who expertly covered football, basketball, hockey, motorsports and golf in addition to baseball during his career. There aren’t any that work harder, either. But he’ll be best remembered for his eternally sunny, giving personality.
Durrett, a proud member of his church choir, didn’t go out of his way to befriend practically every person who crossed paths with him or help as many folks as possible. Those kinds of things just came naturally to him.
Step into any press box around these parts and ask around. You’re likely to find several stories about Durrett’s good deeds, from frequently unsolicited small favors to serving as a career-changing mentor to many.
I was fortunate enough to be on the receiving end of countless favors from Durrett during our decade and a half working together, and he was the single biggest factor in the beginning of my career.
Durrett was only a few months older than I, but he had graduated from TCU (with honors, I’m sure), made a couple of career moves and landed the sports editor job at the Denton Record-Chronicle by the time I was starting my senior year at North Texas and working at the campus newspaper. He soon offered me a part-time, $7-per-hour job that was a tremendous learning opportunity. He could have just given me grunt work, but he allowed me to help him with Mean Green coverage and made time to try to teach me about reporting and writing because he cared about helping me reach my professional goals. He also good-naturedly put up with me rearranging his meticulously ordered desk on a daily basis and resisted the urge to use his X-ACTO knife for purposes other than cut-and-paste layout when I gave him “You get what you pay for, Dickey D!” wisecracks during our frantic dashes to make Friday night football deadlines.
Had that been all, I’d have been forever indebted to Durrett, but it was just the beginning. He earned a promotion to The Dallas Morning News, our big-brother paper, after only a few months, writing heartfelt thank-you cards to each member of his staff on his way out. On mine, he mentioned that he expected me to be a success at a major publication in the near future -– and then did everything in his power to help make that happen, starting with lobbying hard for me to be his replacement on the UNT beat, scheduling a meeting to talk the DMN editors into taking a chance on such an inexperienced writer to handle their coverage of a Division I school. That paved the way for me to eventually follow in Durrett’s footsteps to the DMN and ESPNDallas.com, with his support unwavering all the way.
When it comes to Durrett, my story isn’t unique. Dozens of media members have benefited greatly from his wisdom and generosity over the years.
Dickey D, on the other hand, is one of a kind who will be dearly missed.