THE GOOD-HANDS GUYS Richards grabs share of fame at Hopkins

Jim Margraff is the football coach at Johns Hopkins, where Joe Richards has achieved some fame as a wide receiver. When Margraff quarterbacked the Blue Jays from 1978-81, he threw to Bill Stromberg, who 11 years later remains the most prolific pass-catcher in the history of Division III football.

How do the two compare?


"Bill was a great football player, unbelievable," Margraff said, "and there are a lot of similarities. We just threw to him more than we do Joe.

"They're both quiet players who take great pride in catching the ball. On the rare occasions when Bill dropped a ball, he wouldn't throw his helmet or shout, but you knew it killed him. Same with Joe. Joe's also just like Bill in that he wants the football. He takes it personally if we throw to someone else on third down."


Richards wants the ball tomorrow (1:30 p.m.) at Homewood Field, where Hopkins (5-4) finishes its season against archrival Western Maryland (5-4).

The Green Terrors are second in the Centennial Football Conference at 4-2, and the Blue Jays are 3-3.

A junior from Mahanoy City, Pa., Richards has 50 catches this season and 138 in three collegiate seasons.

He knows he's not going to set any school records -- Stromberg's 258 catches covered 3,790 yards and produced 39 touchdowns -- but next year Richards could become the 17th player in Division III history with 200 receptions.

"It doesn't matter to me if I'm No. 1 or No. 10 here," Richards said, "as long as the players I was here with want to say 'I played with Joe Richards.' That would be nice."

Swift (4.5 in the 40) and sure-handed, Richards came out of Marian Catholic, one of the top high school programs in Pennsylvania's coal region. He turned down an appointment from the U.S. Naval Academy and some Division I-AA offers.

"Marian Catholic had only 380 boys and girls when I was there, but it was more or less a football factory," Richards said. "It was nothing to see 10,000-14,000 people at our games.

"I believe I could play Division I football. Now and then you ask yourself 'What if?' but I wanted to go somewhere I could play as soon as possible. I went into this with the idea of using football as a means to an end."


A natural sciences major who's 3.31 cumulative grade-point average put him on the GTE Academic All-America regional team last year, Richards plans to enter medical school in 1994. He most likely will study to become a dermatologist.

Richards was the top catch in Margraff's first recruiting class, and he has started all 29 of the Blue Jays games since arriving at Hopkins in 1990. His 19.3 yards per catch last year ranked him No. 6 in the nation. Sophomore quarterback Mike Bopp is a first-year starter and the passing attack has stressed shorter routes this fall. After Richards' 50 receptions, the next closest wide-out is Kevin Neal, with 16.

Richards had no receptions in the Sept. 25 victory over FDU-Madison, which was played in a driving rainstorm. The last time he was shut out came in his freshman year, when the Blue Jays beat Western Maryland in similar conditions. Last year the Green Terrors limited him to two receptions, one reason they ended an eight-year losing streak against their rivals.

"Who covers Joe Richards?" Western Maryland coach Dale Sprague said. "Everybody we have. No matter what people do to him, he catches the ball."


Richards' stats


Year.. .. ..Rec... .. .Yards.. .. .Avg... .. ..TD

1990.. .. ..35.. .. .. .493.. .. ..14.1.. .. ...2

1991.. .. ..53.. .. ...1023.. .. ..19.3.. .. ...6

1992.. .. ..50.. .. .. .703.. .. ..14.1.. .. ...9

Tot... .. .138.. .. .. 2219.. .. ..16.1.. .. ..17