Richie Contartesi is a small town kid who dreamt his entire life of playing big time college football in the SEC. He had the heart, passion, tenacity, and love for the game but there was a nagging problem that haunted him from youth football through college, his size. Standing at 5’7 150 pounds, he was never the biggest, fastest, talented, or strongest wide-receiver on the team. Richie’s journey chronicles the trials and tribulation of a boy with a dream and the realities of Division I college football. An inspirational story of hope, determination, and success that will fuel your inner desire to be the best you can be and defy the naysayers and odds to reach your dreams.
Full Summary (Warning: contains spoilers!):
Richie showed a propensity for football at an early age. He was strong, fast, but small, excelling on both offense and defense. He had a strong work ethic, which earned him recognition in high school as a team leader. He lettered every year and earned awards like Offensive Player of the Year and Most Valuable Player.
Soon Richie was recruited by a IAA college in Florida and was “red shirted” his first year. A “red shirt’ identifies a player who is not active to play official football games during his first year of college. Subsequently, at the end of the season, his coach was fired, and my son wasn’t invited back for spring football.
After numerous attempts, he received an opportunity to try out for OleMiss, a South East Conference (SEC) college team as a walk-on and, eventually, for the team. Walk-ons are the “raw meat” a team can beat up in preparation for the next week’s opponents. Over the next few years, the charm of being a walk-on football player on the scout team in the SEC quickly turned into the reality of aches, sprains, broken bones, and other nagging injuries. The two-a-day practices, film review, and weight training regiment were fueling physical and mental progress with the hope of getting a full scholarship based on hard work and associated accomplishment.
After a promising first year as a walk-on, the SEC coach was fired. A new coach equates to a new regime, and Richie was again sent back to the bottom of the walk-on
promotion ladder. Being a hard worker on the field and in the weight room is important, but now, to obtain a scholarship, he’d have to grow another six inches in height. With the odds stacked against him, however, he continued to persevere.
Richie was dedicated to developing all his talents and skills regardless of physical gifts and characteristics. In the film room, Richie excelled at identifying complex defenses and designing offensive routes to counterattack the defense. He continually had repetitions with the first team and demonstrated a reputation for excellent hands and route running. However, during the first year under the new coach, he logged no playing time.
During the second and third year, the hope of graduating seniors and anticipation for an expanded role was met with continued disappointment. Working hard in practice, studying in the film room, and helping the coach on a leadership role did not move Richie from walk-on to scholarship. He excelled in practice and was sought after by the defensive coaches to run plays for the following week’s opposition.
Richie was asked to take an expanded role preparing the special teams and to eventually become the starting holder. As a starter, his ambition to start as a receiver was met with disappointment, yet he never let his disappointment became a hindrance to his performance on the field nor a negative factor for his team. Richie never quit nor showed his frustration and disappointment to the team, and his positive dedication became an inspiration to other walk-ons and players.
Although his size was a detractor, Richie’s spirit and love for the game prevailed. He led by example. Other players on the team sought his advice and guidance when they felt down and rejected. They saw Richie play with sprains, broken bones, and an unwavering determination to succeed. He continued to work diligently over the summer in anticipation of the final year of eligibility.
The final year would exemplify the culmination of a lifetime of practice, competition and dedication. Over the summer, the scheduled practices and depth chart began to take shape. The high hopes of being in the starting rotation were increasingly complicated with new recruits and the pressures felt by the coaches to produce.
Richie fell in the depth chart but continued to stay focused. He had been through this before, facing frustration and accepting his role on the team. He was asked to work with the new rookie place-kicker who would be facing the pressures of the hostile SEC. He accepted the challenge and selflessly gave his all for the success of the team.
Finally, Richie was rewarded with a full SEC scholarship prior to his senior season in recognition of his personal dedication, expanded role, selfless giving to the team, and inspiration for all other non-scholarship players who were hoping for a shot in Division I football. During Richie’s final year, he helped cultivate the most productive kicker in the SEC and achieved his dream of completing receptions during an SEC game, all while earning the distinguished SEC Scholar Athlete Award.
It is this same hard work and dedication, learned through football, that eventually became his success strategy in the corporate business environment. The same dedication and perseverance that produced a Division I scholarship player also gave Richie the confidence to start his own successful online marketing and custom website design business. He also played professional arena football for the Florida Tarpons.
He is now encouraging others to reach their highest potential in the corporate business world. Developing a clear understanding of how frustration and disappointment can potentially debilitate an employee, Richie assists employees to take a positive, productive approach to problems in an open and safe work environment. The lessons learned during his tenure in the SEC developed a resilient character capable of guiding others through the adversity of competitive business environments.