Rich Johnson Was 'Always So Full Of Life'

March 06, 1991|By Ed McDonough | Ed McDonough,Contributing writer

Something about Ursinus (Pa.) College brought out the best in Rich Johnson.

In 1981, the Western Maryland College football player and former standout at Severna Park High School booted a school-record 51-yard field goal in a game with Ursinus.

Two years later, also against Ursinus, he set or tied several more Western Maryland marks -- most points in a game (24), most catches in a game (15) and most receiving yards in a game (209).

Johnson, 28, died Feb. 26 at Mercy Hospital in Pittsburgh. A blood vessel in his brain burst Feb. 16 during a family skiing trip in Champion, Pa.

Johnson was a soccer and baseball player at Severna Park High who, in his senior year, switched to football. Usually, soccer players whoswitch to football just kick, but Johnson had enough athletic ability to play as a wide receiver, too.

"He was just an outstanding athlete," said Severna Park football coach Andy Borland. "He was always so full of life. It seemed like wherever he went there was some fun going on, and that's what life is all about."

Johnson moved on to Western Maryland, where he impressed his coaches not only with his ability, but also with his competitiveness and off-field demeanor, too.

"The biggest thing I remember is his intensity," said WMC head baseball and assistant football coach Dave Seibert, who attended the funeral Monday in Baltimore. "But the thing I remember most about him off the field is that he was a real friend to everybody."

Aside fromhis football exploits, Johnson was a standout on the diamond, too. He is 12th on Western Maryland's all-time hitting list with a .333 career batting average.

He brought other qualities to that sport, as well.

"He was the captain of my 1984 team that won the Middle Atlantic Conference title," Seibert said of his baseball team. "That was my best team ever."

Seibert said two of Johnson's former baseball teammates -- fellow Severna Park graduate Dan Fielder and ex-Green Terrors first baseman Jeff Weyer -- were at the funeral. Johnson, in fact, continued to play baseball on an unlimited team in the Baltimore area with Fielder.

Johnson lived in the Baltimore County communityof Rodgers Forge with his wife, the former Stacy Ruppersberger. She is expecting their first child.

Johnson was an account executive for Chamison Brokerage Co., a food brokerage, and was a member of the Hunt Valley Country Club.

In addition to his wife, he is survived by his father, Ejner J. Johnson Sr., who was chief of staff for Gov. Harry R. Hughes, and his mother, Grace Johnson, both of Severna Park,along with three sisters and a brother.

Western Maryland College has started a memorial fund in his name, but Sports Information Director Scott Deitch said earlier this week details on the fund still were being worked out.

Staff writer John Harris III contributed to this story.

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