Scheduling in college football is no easy task, especially a mere nine months before the beginning of the season. Most schools make their schedules years in advance, and the Swarthmore decision left all CC schools scrambling to fill their open dates. Stephen P. Erber, Muhlenberg's director of athletics, posted an announcement on the Internet indicating that the school had two open dates (the Mules for the past several years have played their 10 games over an 11-week span) and was looking for one opponent. Erber got a number of responses, including one from Cal Lutheran, which had recently dropped Pacific Lutheran as its opponent in the Lutheran Brotherhood Kickoff Classic. The date (Sept. 8) was one that Muhlenberg had open. Since Muhlenberg is a Lutheran school, it appeared to be a match made in heaven.
There was only one potential problem: flying a large team across the country and housing it in a hotel for two nights costs a considerable amount of money. That's where Richard came in. Perhaps no one symbolizes the rejuvenation of the Muhlenberg football program more than Richard. He began his career in 1996, but suffered a leg injury in preseason that forced him to watch from the sidelines as the Mules struggled to a 1-9 record, their seventh straight losing season.
Mike Donnelly arrived as head coach the following year, and although the team went 1-9 again, the signs of progress were obvious. Muhlenberg improved to 5-5 in 1998 and 6-4 in 1999 before going 9-2 last fall, tying the 54-year-old school record for wins in a season and winning the ECAC Southwest championship. Because of that performance, the Mules were ranked 16th in Division III in one 2001 preseason poll.
Richard worked his way back from the injury to become a starting center. He was a team captain in both 1999 and 2000 and earned All-CC honors both seasons.
A double major in economics and accounting, Richard had completed an internship with the Lutheran Brotherhood as a student. Founded in 1917, Lutheran Brotherhood is a nationwide Fortune 500 company that provides financial services to its clients. The organization's motto is "Linking Faith, Values & Finances."
Richard was hired full-time as a district representative with the Lutheran Brotherhood agency in Allentown following his graduation. A call from Erber this spring added a new twist to his everyday job of bringing new clients into the LB family.
"After Steve contacted me, I went and contacted the general agent, Hildred Dungan '98, and worked closely with Roger Hendricks (the current general agent)," he said. "After talking to the Lutheran Brotherhood agency in California, I learned that Lutheran Brotherhood would contribute $6,000 on each side: $6,000 from Eastern Pennsylvania and $6,000 from Pacific Southwest."
Richard then attacked the project with the same zeal with which he used to go after defensive linemen. "[Lutheran Brotherhood] also has a program called the "New Connections" grants, which every district representative is eligible for as long as they qualify with a certain level of production. I contacted those district representatives that were eligible to donate this $1,000 grant and made it aware to them that we were trying to put together this game, we needed some extra funding and this was a possible way to use their grant.
"I ended up getting a hold of 13 people that were willing to do it, so that amounted to another $13,000 that we were able to fill in just by me getting out there and contacting those people."
Most of the district representatives came from the Allentown and Lansdale areas, although some came from as far away as Camp Hill, Pa. "It was very surprising," said Richard of his success rate. "I didn't think we'd get as many people as we did, but that is what Lutheran Brotherhood is about: giving back to the communities, institutions like Muhlenberg College, which is a Lutheran college in the area. They were more than willing to do it." The effort was more than just another example of providing financial services. "Just graduating last year, what other kind of job could you have where you can raise $13,000 to give back to the football program?" said Richard. "It felt great."