October 1, 2004
Football practice was just letting out at Scottsdale Christian Academy and coach Jeff Fox had gathered his team in a tight group for some final words and a prayer.
This kind of unity is what Fox has worked so hard to develop at SCA; one where no one stands out and every member of the team is vital to success.
Richard Ramsay was just another part of that tight-knit group, blending in seamlessly. Just like he’s always wanted.
Actually, Ramsay blended in too well and slipped away among the other players, kind of like what he does on the football field after making a catch. Ramsay had a choir concert in less than an hour and had to go home and change. He was gone before anyone noticed.
Sitting down with some of the people who have played with Ramsay the last four years, you immediately get the sense that, to them, "Richie" isn’t special for the reasons the outsider thinks he is. To them he’s special because he’s their friend and teammate, just one in a group that has started the season 4-1 and is determined to end their senior seasons with a trip to the playoffs.
"I see him as just another guy because I grew up with him and I just knew him as Richard," said Matt Olsen. "I don’t see him as the kid with one arm or that it’s a disability to him. He’s just taking what he has and he runs with it."
Ramsay was born with a left arm that ends right where his elbow should be. Ramsay doesn’t use a prosthetic, but has been blessed with what he so fittingly called "one excellent hand" in a story the Tribune did on him when he was a sophomore.
Back then, Ramsay was kind of a novelty. People outside of SCA hadn’t seen him play much and probably thought he was nothing more than a feel-good story for a small-school team. Now, two years later, anyone who has seen Ramsay play knows he means business.
Last year, Ramsay suffered a broken wrist during the football season, but kept playing as long as he could. He’s also a key contributor on the SCA basketball team, the best squad in 2A last year.
Ramsay is proving to be far more than a novelty.
"Richie really stands out and everybody knows he’s a stud," said Eddie Hyatt, a senior lineman for the Eagles. "It’s not really a disability because he’s just as good as everybody else."
When Olsen, Hyatt, Will Munsil and Jordan Isaac began playing football at SCA with Ramsay, they weren’t quite sure what to expect.
"First time I saw him, I thought he was the equipment manager," said Munsil, the Eagles quarterback. "I was like, ‘How can this kid play football?’ Then he started playing and he ended up on our JV team. He was the only guy I could throw to."
His teammates all said it didn’t take long for them to realize Ramsay was the real deal as an athlete. Opponents, however, had to learn the hard way. After all, what would any teenager think when they line up across from a player with just one arm?
"Teams would think, basically, he has one arm and he can’t do too much to us," said Hyatt, "until it’s already done."
Munsil recalled one game when the opposition decided they’d take advantage of the defensive back with one arm.
"The other team threw three passes and he intercepted all of them," said Munsil.
"A lot of times, we’d line up against teams and they would put their weakest guy, their tiniest cornerback against him. After the first time we beat them deep, they didn’t do that anymore."
Munsil said Ramsay does still get singled out by the opposing team, but for a very different reason.
"First game we played this year, it was their strategy to shut him down," said Munsil. "They thought that was how they could shut our offense down.
"He’s come a long way from teams shuffling their defense to get their worst player on him to teams putting their best player on him."
So far this season, Ramsay has put up modest numbers and has fit in well in the Eagles’ balanced offense. He has eight catches, 82 yards and two touchdowns. He also has two interceptions.
SCA’s opponent tonight, Valley Christian, is well aware of what Ramsay means to the Eagles.
"He’s a stud," said Valley Christian coach Sean Loomer. "I told our kids when we were talking about addressing each of their players that he will beat you. He’ll go after you and he’s a great athlete."
Perhaps Ramsay would rather not stick out, but he can’t help it. He’s a talented athlete, and those tend to find a way to get attention.