Richardson's moment should not be lost

On Monday evening Wofford College dedicated a bronze sculpture of Carolina Panthers owner Jerry Richardson in recognition of the upcoming 20th year in which the team has trained at the Spartanburg, South Carolina campus.

Richardson was an All-American receiver at the school in the late 1950s.

The ceremony occurred in front of a small gathering of the school's board of trustees and close friends of Richardson. There was no media and no fanfare, which typifies the way Richardson has conducted business since he brought the NFL to the Carolinas in 1995.

The sculpture fittingly depicts Richardson overlooking Gibbs Stadium, where the Terriers play football and the three practice fields built to give the Panthers a suitable home for camp.

It stands on the patio of the Harley Room in the Richardson Physical Activities Building that is named after Richardson, who began his business empire in Spartanburg after helping the 1959 Baltimore Colts win the NFL championship.

"I have said many times that the friendships I was fortunate to build at Wofford in the 1950s have led directly to whatever success I may have enjoyed," Richardson said at the event. "Without Wofford's influence on my life, I would not have been able to achieve what I have."

I was covering the team on that hot, muggy day -- typical in Spartanburg -- in 1995 when players such as Sam Mills, Mark Carrier, Frank Reich, Don Beebe and Pete Metzelaars walked onto the field with then-coach Dom Capers.

The thousands of fans that showed for the historic moment didn't care that the air was so thick you could hardly breathe or that the players weren't NFL superstars or that the team wasn't expected to win right way.

They were there to celebrate the arrival of the NFL to a small, Southern town that Richardson helped put on the map.

The imposing figure the sculpture captures will be a constant reminder to all of what Richardson has done.

The unveiling was so discreet that it didn't become public until Tuesday. By then the media world was embroiled in covering Greg Hardy's arrest on charges that he assaulted his girlfriend, Nicole Holder.

I can only imagine the pain that brought Richardson, who has worked tirelessly to ensure the product he puts on the field meets the same integrity and standards he demands from all off the field.

It's been a rough stretch for Richardson, one of the more influential owners in the league. He had a heart transplant in 2009, fired long-time head coach John Fox after the 2010 season, and last year lost his son, Jon, to a long battle with cancer.

The 2013 team that went 12-4 gave him hope of fulfilling his dream to bring a Super Bowl champion to the Carolinas, something he came close to doing when the 2003 team lost to New England by three points in the championship game.

Richardson will take Hardy's arrest personally even though he shouldn't. He also shouldn't let it spoil the moment that occurred on Monday.

That shouldn't be lost.