Camp Randall 100: Pat Richter

Camp Randall 100: Pat Richter
Camp Randall 100: Pat Richter

The Camp Randall 100 honors a prestigious group of 100 people who shaped the first century of Camp Randall Stadium. Wisconsin Athletics will reveal a new honoree every day from May 24 until the Badgers’ 2017 opening game on Sept. 1 against Utah State.

BY MIKE LUCAS | Senior Writer

Pat Richter is synonymous with Wisconsin Athletics. A three-sport letterwinner (football, basketball and baseball) he was a two-time All-American receiver for the Badgers. He twice led the Big Ten in receiving and helped the Badgers win the 1962 conference title and earn a berth to the Rose Bowl. In 1997, he was elected to the College Football Hall of Fame.

Richter was a first-round draft pick of the Washington Redskins in 1963 and played nine seasons in the NFL. After a successful business career, he returned to UW in 1989 as the Badgers’ Director of Athletics. He was responsible for overseeing a renaissance of Wisconsin Athletics, hiring head football coach Barry Alvarez and helping mold the successful all-around program that still prospers today.

Pat Richter
Pat Richter

As a 10-year-old growing up on Madison’s east side, Pat Richter’s earliest memory of Camp Randall Stadium was watching Ohio State’s explosive single-wing tailback Vic Janowicz, whose No. 31 would be retired by the school not unlike Richter’s No. 88 would be one day at Wisconsin.

In 1951, Richter was in the Camp Randall stands for a fiercely-contested 6-6 draw between the Buckeyes and the Badgers. Janowicz, the 1950 Heisman Trophy winner, was a non-factor on offense as the fabled Hard Rocks defense limited him to just 11 yards on 11 carries.

Janowicz was completely neutralized as a runner, much to the chagrin of Ohio State’s first-year head coach who was making the jump from Miami (Ohio) to the Big Ten. It was one of the few times that Woody Hayes didn’t walk away with a “W” against the Badgers.

When Richter got to Wisconsin in 1959 “” after decommitting from a basketball scholarship to the University of Kansas “” he was a member of the freshman football team that was coached on defense by former All-American defensive end Pat O’Donahue, a feisty stalwart of those Hard Rocks.

“Freshmen weren’t eligible,” said Richter, whose most vivid recollections of Camp Randall that first year were from playing in the “shadows of the stadium” on the adjoining practice fields that are now Lot 17 and the McClain Center. The frosh scrimmaged the varsity on Mondays.

Pat RichterIt was during one of these scrimmages that the mild-mannered Richter did something totally out of character. He lost his poise. While playing defense and lining up opposite the tight end, an upperclassman, he exchanged some elbows during and after the play. Push came to shove.

“We went back and forth,” Richter said, “and the next thing I know I was swinging.”

Richter landed a right hand through the single-bar facemask and broke the tight end’s nose.

What in the world possessed him to throw a punch? “I guess we have a little bit of a boiling point,” conceded Richter, whose laid-back demeanor belied his intensity and toughness, even as a freshman. “Luckily, I missed his facemask or I probably would have split my knuckles.”

Richter, who was on a partial basketball tender, made his college football debut in 1960 and set a UW record by catching seven passes in the opener at Stanford. A week later, Richter’s first home game was upstaged by Marquette’s last appearance at Camp Randall Stadium.

Richter had three catches in a 35-6 win; the 36th and final meeting between the in-state rivals who had met every year since 1932. All the games were staged in Madison and Wisconsin dominated the series (32-4) against Marquette, which dropped football at the end of the season.

As a sophomore, Richter matched Jerry Witt’s single-season record for receptions in the sixth game with his 26th catch, a play that covered 36 yards against Michigan. But it was costly. “Benny McRae tackled me and pulled my arms back,” he said, “so I wasn’t able to break my fall.”

Richter landed on his shoulder and broke his collarbone, sidelining him for the remainder of the season. That was his most painful Camp Randall moment.

Without prodding, Richter volunteered that his most embarrassing moment came the following season during a 55-7 dismantling of Illinois.

“I got behind the defense and it was the longest pass that I caught in Camp Randall Stadium,” Richter said of the 56-yard play. “But I had to stretch out to catch the ball on my fingertips and while I was trying to get my balance, I couldn’t and ended up going thump, thump and flopping on the turf.”

It was a rare awkward moment.

“But I held on to the ball,” he said, “and I didn’t break any bones, either.”

One of Richter’s fondest Camp Randall Stadium remembrances was from his senior year when the Badgers played host to No. 1-ranked Northwestern on Nov. 10, 1962. The unbeaten Wildcats were led by sophomore quarterback Tom Myers, who was No. 1 in the Big Ten in passing offense. Myers’ favorite target was wide receiver Paul Flatley, who led the conference in receptions.

The Badgers countered with quarterback Ron Vander Kelen and Richter. The duo ranked No. 2 in passing yardage and catches, respectively. In total offense, Vander Kelen was No. 1 and Myers was No. 2. With the promise of offensive fireworks, the matchup was eagerly anticipated. More than 3,000 students attended the “Yell Like Hell” rally Friday afternoon in front of the Memorial Union.

The Homecoming game had been sold out for weeks though it attracted little national interest. In fact, it wasn’t even televised. “It just wasn’t the same kind of hype that you would get today for a No. 1-ranked team,” Richter said. “But when you played No. 1, nobody wanted to be embarrassed. I know they were touted and we weren’t necessarily highly-touted (despite ranking No. 7 and 8 in the polls).”

It wound up being a mismatch. In the third quarter, the Badgers turned a modest 10-0 lead into a full-scale rout by scoring 21 points in the first seven minutes. The outmanned Wildcats avoided being skunked with a late consolation touchdown but head coach Ara Parseghian could find little to smile about after the 37-6 beating, citing “greater execution and determination” by Wisconsin.

Richter won his personal dual with Flatley, five catches to two. “It was nothing special from my perspective in terms of any kind of stats “” instead, we just had a good, solid, balanced attack,” said Richter, singling out tailback Lou Holland, who scored three TDs. Gary Kroner caught two scoring passes, kicked a field goal and four extra points, accounting for 19 points overall, including the first 17.

When VanderKelen was asked if the Northwestern win was the turning point to the ’62 season, he said, “Absolutely. Any time you play the No. 1 team in the country and beat them pretty badly, you’ve got to start believing you’re a pretty good team. For a lot of people, I think it built up their confidence. It was like, “˜Hey, we’re good, we can do this.'”

Entering the regular-season finale against Minnesota at Camp Randall Stadium, the Badgers were virtually assured of getting the official bid to the Rose Bowl regardless of the outcome. They couldn’t drop lower than second and the Gophers were ineligible after back-to-back trips to Pasadena.

In his final home appearance, a hard-fought 14-9 victory, Richter had six of UW’s 10 pass completions, five on the TD drives. He also impacted field position with nine punts, including a 51-yarder from his own goal line in the final seconds to ice the win, an understated but indelible Richter moment.

On his final play at Camp Randall.