Tag: football

July 30, 1965: Birth of Richard Tardits, first Basque-born NFL player

On July 30, 1965, Richard Tardits was born in Baiona, Lapurdi. Originally a rugby player, after going to college in the United States he took up football and went on to play linebacker for the New England Patriots between 1990 and 1992.

Tardits played rugby at junior level for Biarritz Olympique, and represented the French national side at the same level. Moving to the United States to attend college he took up football and played for the Georgia Bulldogs. There, he held the record for most sacks (until surpassed by David Pollack in 2004), earning the nickname “Le Sack.”

He was drafted by the Phoenix Cardinals in 1989 but never played for the Arizona team, instead going on to play twenty-seven games for the Patriots in three seasons in the early 1990s. Following his NFL career, he took up rugby once more, playing for the Mystic River Rugby Club, and represented the US national team on twenty-two occasions between 1993 and 1999.

John Huarte: The Bounding Basque from Sunny California

With the little matter of Superbowl 50 just around the corner, and seeking to prove that there really is a Basque history of the world* or “six degrees (or less) of Basque,”** it wasn’t too difficult to come up with a Basque-themed post to coincide with this weekend’s big game. Welcome to the life and times of John Huarte, “that bounding Basque from sunny California,” according to Joe Doyle’s article here.

Huarte was born in 1944 in Anaheim, CA, where his Basque family ran a citrus farm. His father, Joseph, had played some pro baseball in the 1920s, but John gravitated toward the gridiron instead. He played college football for Notre Dame, where he graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration, and is best remembered for winning the Heisman Trophy in 1964, somewhat against all odds as explained here.

Huarte later turned pro. A second-round draft selection for the New York Jets in 1965, he subsequently moved on to Boston, Philadelphia, Minnesota, Kansas City, and Chicago in the NFL, and enjoyed two more years with Memphis in the WFL prior to retiring in 1975. He then began his own highly-successful tile business, Arizona Tile, that specialized in tile, marble, and granite countertops, and became the largest importer of granite in North America.

In 2005, John was deservedly inducted into the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame.

*Just in case some you don’t know, I’m referring here to Mark Kurlansky’s great The Basque History of the World (see here).

**The six degrees of separation (or Kevin Bacon) theory.