BOSTON (CBS) — Sitting in the crowd at Tuesday evening’s Patriots Premiere party at Gillette Stadium, safety Jordan Richards didn’t know he was about to receive a special honor.
Richards, who has been a pillar in the community since being drafted by New England in the second round of the 2015 NFL Draft, became the 15th player to receive the New England Patriots Ron Burton Community Service Award on Tuesday. He’s spent numerous off days visiting children at local hospitals, but it was one instance shortly after his rookie season ended that caught the eye of team owner Robert Kraft.
He visited the Kraft Family Blood Donor Center after being drafted, but wasn’t able to donate blood, as players aren’t permitted to do so during the season. Just two days after the Patriots lost to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship Game in 2016, Richards was already arranging to make another visit. This time, he’d be donating platelets, which are critical as patients recover from chemotherapy treatments.
“I don’t really like blood, but it’s obviously for a good cause. The people there are amazing and it’s going to an amazing cause, so I’m OK with the needle,” Richards said after receiving the award on Tuesday.
So when Kraft called out Richards name for this year’s Ron Burton recipient, which is named in honor of the late Ron Burton, the first player drafted by the team and a community leader whose widespread charitable work was a model for how a Patriots player can make an impact off the field, it was an honor he won’t soon forget.
“It’s about the community and about people. I just hope that everyone’s interaction with me is a positive one,” he told WBZ-TV’s Steve Burton, the son of Ron Burton. “It’s an incredible opportunity and an incredible award.”
“Every Patriots player has an opportunity to make a positive impact in our community,” said Kraft. “Jordan has made the most of his opportunities. In his two seasons with the team, he has made dozens of community appearances, volunteering time and resources to support many of our team initiatives. He has an infectious smile, an outgoing personality and a desire to help others, attributes that make him one of the most genuine goodwill ambassadors on the team. We appreciate his many contributions and his eagerness to always want to do more.”
Richards joins a select group of Patriots players to receive the Ron Burton Award. Past recipients are Rob Gronkowski (2016), Nate Solder (2015), Devin McCourty (2014), Matthew Slater (2013), Zoltan Mesko (2012), Jerod Mayo (2011), Vince Wilfork (2010), Kevin Faulk (2009), Larry Izzo (2008), Ty Warren (2007), Jarvis Green (2006), Matt Light (2005), Troy Brown (2004) and Joe Andruzzi (2003).