In the spring of 2000, I felt the urge to chase my passion for sports writing and leave behind the city council and school board meetings that filled most of my nights.
There was an opening at the Denton Record Chronicle and I decided one morning to drop off my resume and some clips, though I was still a few months away from graduating from UNT. The sports editor at the time took my resume and immediately ushered me into the conference room for an impromptu interview.
The slender, kind man with glasses asked me a few questions and told me his vision for the department. He also provided a little commentary about the newspaper’s relationship with big brother down the road – The Dallas Morning News.
A week or so later, Richard Durrett told me he had picked someone else for the job – a writer with far more experience who had previously worked for The Morning News.
He didn’t have to, but Durrett told me he was impressed with my samples and said some other kind words. He made me feel so good I hung up the phone feeling like I should apologize for not being good enough.
A few months later, The Morning News snatched up Durrett, creating an opening at the Record-Chronicle, which I slid into.
On my first night as a full-time sportswriter, the night after Thanksgiving, I covered a 2A playoff game featuring current Decatur trainer Fernando Escobar’s Comanche team against Pilot Point in Weatherford.
I don’t recall much from the game other than Escobar’s injury, that Pilot Point won and in the coaches’ office after the game the athletic director asking me where was Durrett and talking about how great he was. I told him I remembered seeing his byline that day covering Turkey Trot.
Over the next few months, I talked to Durrett a few times on the phone. Then in June 2001, the Indy races came to Texas Motor Speedway. I was sent out to cover the race for the Record-Chronicle, since a high school classmate of mine from tiny Callisburg was in the race.
Soon after entering the media center, I saw Durrett. He came over and started chatting about the Record-Chronicle and how things were going. Though he had his plate full covering the race for The Morning News, he asked me – who had just one assignment – if I needed anything.
I couldn’t help but think, “Who is this guy? Can he really be this nice?”
I talked to Durrett only a time or two more before I left the Record-Chronicle. But I followed his work continuously, first in the paper and later when he went to ESPN. I marveled at how much he wrote and his vast knowledge of every sport. I couldn’t help but be a little envious.
So in June, I was floored when I heard the news that Durrett had suddenly died at 38. No, I wasn’t best friends with him, but the few times we did interact had left a lasting impression.
He was a true breath of fresh air. Too often pressboxes are full of malcontents and cynics who forget we are getting paid to write about a game. It’s not a bad gig, despite the long hours and late nights.
Durrett never seemed to lose sight of that.
In the weeks following his death, I read many great eulogies from talented writers who knew him far better. Every one captured what I remembered about the best of us.
Durrett left behind two children and a wife who is expecting a third child.
The Texas Rangers set up a fund for his family. There is also the “Do It for Durrett” benefit concert and auction at Billy Bob’s Sept. 8 that will feature hundreds of items donated by professional athletes and organizations.
It’s a chance to show a little kindness for a man who went out of his way to show more than his share – even to a young scribe like me.
Richard Greene is sports editor for the Messenger.