Today in Patriots History
The French Patriot
The French Patriot
Happy 56th birthday to Richard 'Le Sack' Tardits
Born July 30, 1965 in Biarritz, France
Patriot LB, 1990-1992; uniform #53
Acquired in a trade with the Phoenix Cardinals on March 23, 1990
Richard Tardits learned to speak English as a high school exchange student in Augusta, Georgia. Against his father's wishes he stayed in the US and became the University of Georgia's career leader in sacks. Tardits played in 27 games for the Patriots over three seasons. Following that Tardits played on the United States national rugby union team, the USA Eagles, from 1993 to 1999.
Richard Tardits, first Basque-born NFL Player
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.”
Below is a detailed and worthwhile biography on the very interesting life of Richard Tardits.
'Le Sack' Always Took the Right Fork in the Road
His reluctance for self-aggrandizement is admirable, but seldom has any college had a player who embodied the student athlete concept as did Richard Tardits. You must keep in mind that he didn't grow up from infancy with a familiarity with football or a natural appreciation of the nuances of the popular American sport. When he was a senior, he was studying for a Masters degree, taking 25 hours. There was an NCAA rule that stipulated that he could only take 22 hours, so he audited courses like art appreciation, photography, and typing, the last a skill he knew he would need one day in the business world. When he earned an NCAA postgraduate scholarship, a remarkable achievement for someone who learned to speak English as a high school exchange student in Augusta, Georgia, where he visited longtime family friend, Dr. Edouard Servy, he took the money and learned to fly an airplane and maintains an active pilot's license today.
There is also this, more relevant to Patriots fans:
From that point on, Richard played and practiced with the heart of a lion while placing unending emphasis on his academic options. Looking back, he realizes that his academic emphasis was not in his best interests in regard to an NFL career but has no regrets. "I was in the middle of working for my MBA degree and did not prepare for the NFL combine as a result," Richard said. Yet he knew what he had to do to make the team in the specialized NFL system. With his speed, he learned to cover backs out of the backfield and made the team at Arizona. Traded to the New England Patriots, he knew he was a better pass rusher than Andre Tippett, who was getting by on experience. "Once you are established in the NFL, they are not going to cut you if you have experience," he said.
The then-lowly Patriots made a move for rebirth and hired Bill Parcells. By this time, Richard was injured. After a team meeting, Parcells told him, "You won't be well by training camp, so we are going to release you." Tardits knew the rules and said, "Coach I am injured, you cannot cut me." Parcells curt reply, was, "Sue me."
That did not offend Richard, who understands how cutthroat business is in the NFL. "Parcells was right. I would not have recovered by training camp." With no place for bitterness in his life, Tardits holds no grudge and says wistfully, "I would have liked to have played for a coach like Parcells." While in Boston, Richard applied for Harvard Law School and was admitted, but he knew he could not play in the NFL and take classes, so he opted not to enroll--one of the few regrets in his life.
Some more articles on Richard Tardits:
The story of a man born in France and grows up playing rugby, walks on to the University of Georgia football team, sets an all-time record in sacks, and then goes on to play for the USA rugby team and New England Patriots NFL team is as improbably as the man. Richard Tardits was a success at...
Richard Tardits scores for the USA, versus Ireland in 1996
Dawg Post is counting down the Top 50 UGA players of all time through the summer. Keep checking back each weekday to see who we have next…
Nicknamed “Le Sack” by Bulldog fans due to his French heritage, Tardis’ story could be turned into a movie one day. The Bayonne, France native tried out for the football team as an exchange student, making quite an impression on hall of fame coach Vince Dooley. His rugby background in France stood out to Dooley and helped him see the field early on special teams.
“Le Sack” was a rough and tough athlete who loved contact. If anyone played football like a bulldog would, it was Richard Tardis. His style of play was aggressive, and his motor tough to stop. Tardits played at Georgia from 1985-1988, and left as the school’s all-time career sack leader with 29.
Even as a former walk-on, it’s safe to say Tardits was one of the most productive defensive ends in school history. After his playing days in Athens, Tardits was drafted by the Arizona Cardinals in the 5th round of the 1989 NFL Draft. He spent four seasons in the NFL, with three of them coming in New England. Tardits played in 27 total games in his NFL career before moving to Hong Kong to play professional rugby.
While many remember him for his football days, there are others who remember him as a U.S.A Rugby star. After his days in Hong Kong where he would meet his wife, Tardits helped the United States team win the Rugby World Cup in 1999.
There are plenty of special people and amazing stories that come through the University of Georgia, but none will be as cool as Richard Tardits’.