A former sheriff, Rick is intelligent, resourceful and a natural born leader. Wounded in the line of duty, Rick is in a coma when the zombie outbreak occurs. Upon awakening and discovering the new realities of his world, Rick tracks down his wife, Lori, and son, Carl, who are living with a group of refugees. He assumes leadership of the refugees and guides the group in a search for a permanent, safe home, first finding a safe haven in the Greene family farm, and later the prison and Alexandria.

Rick is deeply driven by a sense of duty to his family, a quality that sometimes borders on obsession. Rick focuses a lot of his attention on his son, Carl, who is increasingly distant and hardened by the harsh realities of a post-zombie apocalypse life.

Rick almost always puts his family first, sometimes at the expense of those around them, but does express regret over this instinct. He experiences extreme optimism whenever his situation seems to be improving, but then depression whenever the safety and security he seeks isn’t forthcoming.