Former Cathedral standout, NFL player ‘leading by example’ in new United Way role

Published 1:52 pm Friday, April 28, 2023

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A Natchez native and former NFL player known for his advocacy and athleticism is turning his passions toward helping others through the United Way in Canada.

Michael Richardson, a 1987 graduate at Cathedral School, was named the new president and CEO of United Way Winnipeg.

Described as a passionate believer in Winnipeg who has dedicated his career to protecting and advocating for vulnerable young people and families, Richardson said he is excited about the opportunity.

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“My purpose is to lead by example and support change where needed,” said Richardson. “I want to make a difference and create a community where everyone has opportunities, where there is inclusion, and where people feel a sense of belonging.”

Richardson discovered a talent for football at an early age, quickly becoming a standout at Cathedral School. He spent a year with the NFL’s New York Giants before being signed by the Winnipeg Blue Bombers Football Club in 1992. During his time as a professional athlete, he organized and raised funds to support youth football and inner-city youth. He transitioned from sports into the social services sector in 1999 and worked for several social services agencies, including with the United Way of Winnipeg.

He spent the last five years in Ontario, most recently as Director of Child Welfare Operations for the Ontario Ministry of Children and Community Services.

Richardson cites his upbringing as a crucial factor in his career path. Growing up in a low-income family in Natchez, Richardson said his grandparents were avid volunteers at pancake breakfasts and soup kitchens and instilled in him a deeply rooted sense of community and shared responsibility.

As an adult, he has developed a devoted personal passion for children and families.

Richardson and his wife, Jennifer, raised their five children in Winnipeg before moving to Ontario five years ago. Richardson said he is both humbled and thrilled to make an impact in the community he loves and calls home. He’s committed to inspiring Winnipeggers to work together in building a city where everyone is cared for, supported, and valued.

“What an opportunity to be a part of changing lives and building community.”

News of Richardson’s new role was heralded on social media with praise by Natchez friends and former classmates.

“Michael Richardson (#31) Cathedral Class of ‘87. Best I ever saw on a football field and still doing great things 30+ years later,” Dee Dees posted.

“Awesome athlete and all-around great guy,” added Bert Leach.

Tom Graning, owner of Go-Mart, watched Richardson grow up and played alongside him on the field. “He was a freshman when we were seniors. You could see the talent he had then,” Graning said. “He was a phenomenal athlete – played football, basketball, baseball – and just a great, great guy.”