Aldo Richins was born in 1910 in a small semi-desert town and Mormon community, north of Chihuahua, called Colonia Díaz. At that time, Mexico was convulsed by the fervor of the revolutionary movement that was in full swing. As a result, that small settlement of Mormons was expelled and their lands were burned.
Originally, the Richins family came from Europe. Aldo’s grandparents, Orson Oriel Richins and Caroline Fawcett-Richins, were originally from Sheepscombe, England, but his father, Joseph Oriel Richins, and his mother, Lodema Viola Johnson, grew up and met in the town of Mesa, Arizona.
Joseph decided to move with his wife to Colonia Díaz, the first Mormon community in Mexico located along the Casas Grandes River. At the time it was the closest town to the U.S. border but today it’s just a ghost town. The couple had nine children, five of whom were born in Chihuahua, while the others were born in Salt Lake City, Utah.
In 1926 at age 16, Aldo Richins entered West High School, where he shone as an all around athlete. He played baseball, basketball, football, and track & field. In 1929 as a senior, he won the Athlete of the Year award and was later inducted into the West High School Panthers Hall of Fame.
The University of Utah opened its doors for him, where he majored in business administration. In sports, he immediately took over as a starting point guard for the basketball team and served as a wing back (combination running back and receiver) on the football team. He graduated in 1934 and received the ‘Ute’ award as the best athlete in college that year.
He later met Helen Smith, whom he married in 1934, and a year later he was presented with an unmatched opportunity – to play for the Detroit Lions.
At the start of the season, after only his first game however, tragedy struck. Helen would die while giving birth. Overwhelmed by pain and grief, he decided to leave the game after just his first outing.
Sergio Albert and Efrén Herrera were believed to have been the first Mexican players to make it to the NFL. They were picked in the 1974 Draft, by the St. Louis Cardinals and Dallas Cowboys, respectively, but Richins was 39 years ahead of them, as part of the Detroit Lions in 1935.
Ultimately, Detroit won the title that season by defeating the New York Giants 26-7.
So yes, while it was only for one NFL game, Aldo Richins was the first Mexican in history to play in the NFL. Aldo Richins died in April 1995 at the age of 84.
Aldo Richins still lives in their memory
A moving cry is heard through the telephone receiver, deep sighs that do not end, her throat closes involuntarily. Barbara, Aldo Richins’ only daughter, shuddered at the memory of her father.
“He was the best father a daughter could have, he couldn’t be better. He was a very loving, hard-working and honest man. He conveyed all his kindness in a simple handshake and all his love when he hugged you. It was also very funny.” said Barbara, who was 68 years old when she was interviewed in 2006 and lived in Sandy, Utah.
Richins died in 1994, but the pain of his absence did not disappear from Barbara’s heart.
“My father was born in Chihuahua. My grandparents lived there, they came to Mexico to work, but due to the political situation they had to return to the United States. Aldo told me at night what his life was like, he told me that Colonia Díaz was a town very calm and very beautiful. My father was very proud to have been born in Mexico.”
Barbara recounted why her father suddenly left the Detroit Lions in the 1935 season, when he became the first Mexican to play in the NFL.
“My father had a child before I was born … When my dad was playing for the Lions, my mother, Helen (RIP), had a high risk pregnancy. She gave birth, but the little boy died at birth and that. It affected dad a lot. That was one of the reasons why he left the NFL and dedicated himself to his family, taking care of his wife, “said Barbara in 2006. She passed away on August 5, 2020, at the age of 83, “by natural causes”, a year after the death of her husband, Lee Frank Crebs, with whom she had four children.
Aldo Richins left his mortal existence on April 19, 1995, at 84 years of age, but for his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, that man will live forever in his memories.