While a student at Duquesne University, Zach Richert has made his mark on the football field.
His impact, however, extends far past those boundaries.
Richert, a Gibsonia native and Pine-Richland High School graduate, is a superstar in the classroom and contributes heavily to the community. For the second year in a row, Richert has been nominated for the prestigious Allstate AFCA (American Football Coaches Association) Good Works Teams. The award honors student-athletes who put forth exemplary community service efforts and maintain excellent grades.
A senior linebacker for the Dukes, Richert earned his undergraduate degree as a secondary education/English major in May, finishing with a 3.89 grade point average. He is now enrolled in graduate school at Duquesne aiming to obtain a master's degree in Sports Leadership.
"It's cool [to be nominated] because last year I got nominated, too," Richert said. "It's exciting. There are not a lot of names on this list, so it's cool."
Of the 117 student-athletes on the list, three have Pittsburgh ties. Also nominated were Pitt's Andrew Taglianetti -- a Central Catholic graduate -- and Carnegie Mellon's Sam Thompson. Two 11-man teams will be selected, one consisting of NCAA Division I-A schools, and the other from NCAA Division I-AA, II, III and NAIA schools. Past winners include Super Bowl-winning quarterbacks Peyton and Eli Manning, and last year's Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III.
Duquesne football coach Jerry Schmitt has nothing but good things to say about Richert, who will be a team co-captain for the second year in a row.
"He's an outstanding young man," said Schmitt. "Everybody looks up to him on the field, academically and the way he handles himself on campus. He works well with the younger players. He's just an all-around great person."
On the field, Richert is a pass-rushing specialist. Off the field, he specializes in helping others. Richert is involved in the Make-a-Wish Foundation, Walk for Autism, Together for Retarded Youth, One World Running, North Hills Community Outreach and the Woodlands Foundation. Richert is also on the Katie's Fund Advisory Board at Children's Hospital and assists with Duquesne University's annual Toy Drive for Children's Hospital. Richert is a past recipient of Duquesne's Outstanding Student Athlete of the Year Award and serves on the Atlantic 10's Student-Athlete Advisory Committee.
So, how does a classroom whiz and college football player have the time to contribute to so many causes?
"If it's something you want to do, you find time to make it work," Richert said. "I think to me the coolest thing is getting the opportunity to hang out with people with disabilities. It's special to be able to spend time with them and see them excited to meet me, and then learn about them and what their hobbies are."
Richert's family has played a huge role in his activeness as well. Richert's father, Larry, is a longtime Pittsburgh radio and television personality whose lengthy list of charitable work includes helping out with the American Cancer Society. Zach's mother, Cindi, is extremely active, as well.
"My dad does a lot of charitable work," said Richert. "He works more regular hours than just about anybody I know, but still finds the time to help the community and set an example. My mom is the same way. When I was younger, I would volunteer to help out with [mentally challenged] youth. When you do stuff like that early on, it makes you feel good and you want to do more."
Another family member devoting a considerable amount of time to worthy causes is Richert's uncle, Hall of Fame quarterback Dan Marino. Richert's mother and Marino are siblings. Marino established the Dan Marino Foundation which focuses on helping children and young adults with autism.
Zach, who has played in 32 games at Duquesne, plans on contributing to the community for many years to come. Among them is a project he speaks with his mother about frequently.