Kent State Running Back Darrick Edwards Wins Rittichier Award
On Aug. 22, as Kent State University's football team closed out its 2018 preseason camp, the team gathered inside the Dix Stadium team room for a special presentation.
Junior Darrick Edwards, a walk-on running back, was awarded one of the most valued traditions within the Golden Flashes football program – the Lt. Jack Rittichier Trophy – for displaying characteristics of the hero for whom the trophy was named.
“Darrick is an incredibly selfless individual,” head football coach Sean Lewis says. “He has done a great job the whole time we've been here, working extremely hard. He shared a story with us the other night that when he's done (here), he's going to join the military and give back to his country. His selflessness and sacrificing is going to continue well beyond Kent State.”
The presentation of the Lt. Jack Rittichier Trophy award came with a slight twist this year given the preseason timing. Coach Lewis wanted the trophy to go to a player who will inspire by example year-round – from winter workouts to spring ball through summer workouts and preseason camp.
The trophy’s “Jack's Run” sculpture is based on a famous photo from Lt. Rittichier's 90-yard touchdown run in a comeback victory against Bowling Green State University that propelled Kent State to its first bowl game in 1954.
That run may have made him a campus hero, but Lt. Rittichier became a national war hero when he was shot down during a heroic rescue mission in 1968. He was the only U.S. Coast Guard aviator killed in Vietnam.
The remains of Lt. Rittichier and his crew were recovered in 2002, and he was buried with full military honors at Arlington National Cemetery in 2003.
A nameplate for Mr. Edwards will be added to the Rittichier Monument in the South Plaza of Dix Stadium. It is the only monument inside a Football Bowl Subdivision (FBS) stadium dedicated to a fallen hero.
Retired Coast Guard Lt. Cmdr. Jim Loomis and Lt. Rittichier's 1954 Refrigerator Bowl teammate Allan Kaupinen spoke to the team about what made Lt. Rittichier so special, especially the numerous lives he saved in the Great Lakes and Vietnam before his death in 1968.
A team captain in 1955, Lt. Rittichier is one of the most celebrated heroes in the history of the U.S. Coast Guard. Lt. Cmdr. Loomis, like Lt. Rittichier, is one of 11 Coast Guard pilots remembered for serving in combat rescue missions during the Vietnam War. In 2009, Lt. Cmdr. Loomis gained the support of the Coast Guard Aviation Association to rename the Kent State football team MVP award for Lt. Rittichier.