Richards brings toughness, talent to OU squads

Greg Mast
Wellsville High School senior Luke Richards, front left, signed to play football and baseball for Ottawa University. Witnessing the celebration were brother Jake Richards and parents Deidre Fitch and Barry Richards.

WELLSVILLE — Wellsville’s Luke Richards brings a lot to the table for any team. He is an all-around athlete and team leader, tenacious and tough.

Those qualities were expressed by the Wellsville coaches as he begins a college athletic career.

Richards will not venture far from family and friends with his decision to attend Ottawa University to play football and baseball.

“It is going to be a place for me where it is a home away from home,” Richards said Thursday after his signing ceremony. “It was the best spot for me. It checked every box.”

Wellsville football coach Mike Berg said Richards was a coach’s dream.

“He was a true leader,” Berg said. “He will play any position you ask him to play. He brings toughness with it. He does not let the other team push him around. The toughest pound-for-pound hitter I have coached in 30 years.”

Richards expects to play defensive back for the Braves football team and catcher for the baseball team.

Richards said playing both sports at the collegiate level was something he wanted to do but was not necessarily a deal breaker.

“It would have been a tough decision to choose between the two,” he said. “I talked to the two coaches and they were on board with it. I have played three or four sports my entire life.”

On the football field, he played receiver and quarterback on offense and safety and linebacker on defense.

“He will tell the Ottawa coaches, ‘I will play wherever you need me and what is the best for the team,’ ” Berg said. “He was a great all-league receiver here. We needed a quarterback and he stepped up. He played superb. We had him play deep safety and in the flats. He was our quarterback on offense and defense. He was able to get guys in the right spot.”

Richards said Ottawa’s defensive scheme fits his style of play.

“Defense is the best fit for me,” he said. “I like to hit people.”

Richards is a tough-nosed player on the diamond. Wellsville baseball coach Bryan Kindle said he played the game with moxie, and when he was out with an injury, the team suffered.

Richards said playing catcher is both physically and mentally demanding, which fits his personality.

“Something coaches don’t have to coach is your effort and toughness,” Richards said. “I like to set an example with my play, not necessarily with my talk. It is all a mindset.”

Berg sees Richards fitting in at the NAIA level.

“It is really good football,” he said. “It is exciting to watch. There will be great athletes there. This is the avenue he needs to be at.”

Richards is looking forward to learning the college game and maturing as a person.

“It will give me a huge opportunity to grow not only as a football player, but as a man,” he said. “You can learn a lot about the game of football through these (coaches) and through the seniors … the ins and outs, what to do and what not to do.”

Defensive back is a demanding position, which is a challenge Richards will not shy away from.

“Being involved in every play doesn’t allow you to take any plays off,” he said. “It is full go from the whistle to the end of the game. You have to be 110% committed and 110% involved in the game.”

Berg said Richards can be an impact player for the Braves.

“It fits right into his wheelhouse,” Berg said. “He is a very smart football player. He has great instincts. He knows where the ball is going to be thrown. He is a good open field tackler.

“I know he will put in the work and buy into their system.”