The Middletown Press (Middletown, CT)

Pont, coach of standout Yale RBs, dies at 90

- By Michael Fornabaio mfornabaio; @fornabaioc­tp

Think of some of the great running backs of the Carm Cozza era at Yale, like Rich Diana, Dick Jauron, Calvin Hill, Rudy Green, John Pagliaro.

Their position coach was Richard Pont.

“Coach had that rare combinatio­n of patience and fire with an incredible knowledge of the running back position,” Diana said in a statement through the school’s athletic department.

“While my father and brother taught me so much about being a running back, Coach Pont made me a running back. No pro or college coach in America knew more about the position than Rich Pont.”

Pont died Aug. 17, a few weeks shy of his 91st birthday.

Tom Kokoska, chairman of the Yale Football Associatio­n, sent along reaction from almost 40 Yale alumni, and not only former backs, and not only former football players.

They were all heartfelt, with words like “thoughtful,” “grace” and “patience” coming up often.

One former player told of being delayed eight hours on his recruiting visit because of icy weather, but Pont never left the airport waiting for him to arrive in Connecticu­t. Another said Pont made a point to see him act in a play.

Len Fasano, a former player and the former leader of the Connecticu­t Senate Republican Caucus, remembered a day in the rain at practice when

Pont’s school-issued rain gear constricte­d him.

“All of a sudden, he ripped off the rain gear in a Superman ‘rip shirt’ move off his body and never stopped instructin­g us,” Fasano said.

“I will never forget his kindness, his caring personalit­y and being so understand­ing. He was an all-around great guy.”

Many spoke of a softspoken man whose coaching passion didn’t need to be shouted, of a smallstatu­red man whose presence was gigantic.

“Never one who ranted or raged, Richie quietly guided his running backs, giving them tips on blocking, catching and running with the ball in such a way, that the rest of the offense never heard him utter a sound,” said John Spagnola, the Yale tight end who went on to an 11-year NFL career. “Although I never had him coach me directly, I felt his wisdom, thoughtful­ness and humility whenever I was in his presence.”

Pont was born in Canton, Ohio, on Sept. 5, 1930, according to his obituary. He played at Bowling Green. Drafted into the Army, he served in Korea and was awarded the Bronze Star, his obituary said.

He coached at Miami University for his older brother, John, before coaching at two Ohio high schools. In 1968, he arrived at Yale to join the staff of Carm Cozza, who’d coincident­ally replaced John Pont as Bulldogs coach in 1965.

Rich Pont stayed at the Bowl for over two decades.

“Coach Pont was the most impactful coach of my entire football career,” said Keith Price, who was among Pont’s final classes of players in the 1990s. “He was part philosophe­r, part iron man, master strategist and father figure. He was a real life Yoda.”

On the list of Yale’s top 11 career rushers, Pont coached five of them, including Nos. 5-9, a list disrupted by the fact that freshmen were only eligible to play in the Ivy League in the final few years of Pont’s career.

“Coach Pont had a strong and continuing influence on me and the way I live my life,” Green said.

“I remember fondly many film sessions watching and analyzing the play of great running backs as Tony Dorsett and Archie Griffin to determine what made them outstandin­g. These sessions taught me the importance of looking for greatness in contempora­ries as well as in historical figures.”

Pont was survived by his wife, Sarah; by four children; and by seven grandchild­ren. The family asked for memorial donations to go to the Closer to Free Fund, supporting Yale Cancer Center.

“As a teacher and human being, he will always remain a foundation­al pillar of all our lives,” said Kevin Czinger, the 1980 Ivy League Player of the Year. “Coach Pont is the definition of salt of the earth.”

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