I’ll admit, I didn’t know Richard Durrett. At least, not closely.
But the news I awoke to this morning was no less shocking and devastating.
Longtime sports journalist and beat writer for the Dallas Morning News and ESPNDallas.com, died Tuesday. He was 38.
I’ve spent part of the past 12 hours reading about the kind of man Durrett was, both personally and professionally. By all accounts, he was a good man on both fronts. He was a good family man, who spent as much time as he could with his wife and kids, despite the rigors of being a beat writer. He was always willing to help out his friends and colleagues, and was full of integrity with his work.
I can speak to this personally – at least, to some degree.
You see, a little more than a year ago, I was in my last semester of graduate school at the Schieffer School of Journalism. A mentor of mine, Dr. Tommy Thomason, pulled some strings to get me into the program’s only sports journalism class – an undergraduate course that I wanted to take advantage of while still at school.
Thomason was friends and colleagues with Durrett, a fellow TCU grad, and brought him in as an acting assistant and mentor to the course. He was pretty soft-spoken when we, as a class, first met him. He would chime in at times during class to drive a point home, about journalistic integrity and practice. When he spoke, I made sure to listen – after all, he was doing what I wanted to do for a living, and any advice he doled out had to be vital.
I occasionally had one-on-ones with Durrett on beat assignments I submitted to the class. He was a straight-shooter – I mean, he had to be with a good 50 of us in the class. I remember one particular one-on-one I wrote, regarding a profile piece I submitted about the new assistant of TCU football operations.
He shook my hand, asked me how I was doing, sat me down, and said that he liked my piece. Then he said:
“So, you see this? NEVER start a piece like this with a quote. It’s just corny.”
He also told me not to use so many quotes if I didn’t have to. I nodded as if I had reached an epiphany.
He went on to say that he liked how well the piece flowed – a compliment I still remember to this day. An ESPN reporter liked my work? I thought it was pretty cool. But, at the same time, he never talked down to me, or any of the undergraduates – he talked to us like we were equals. I really appreciated that about him.
I remember the stories he would tell us about his beat with the Texas Rangers. I remember the day he told us the story of when he was taken off of his beat to host his own local ESPN Radio show with Ian Fitzsimmons. I remember listening to his show on days I was taking care of errands in Fort Worth, thinking, “I know that guy! This is awesome!”
He was good at what he did. And he was a good man.
It’s hard to think that he would be gone so young.
He leaves behind a wife and two children. He also leaves behind a legacy in sports writing that can be spoken to by a number of friends and colleagues. It’s something I hope that all of us, no matter what we do in our lives, can leave behind.
You’ll be missed, Mr. Durrett. RIP.