WOODBURY – Peter Rickenbach was the tallest player to wear a Nonnewaug football uniform this season. But Rickenbach, a senior co-captain, was only on the field this season for the pregame coin toss.
During Nonnewaug’s final home game of the 2016 season, Rickenbach suffered a devastating injury to his left knee. His ACL, meniscus, and patella were all badly damaged. But because surgeons had to drill through Rickenbach’s growth plates and use transplanted ligaments, it was a process. He endured one major surgery, and several small ones.
Not medically cleared to play this season, Rickenbach could easily have walked away from football and focused on his health, and on basketball. Instead, he was a limited practice participant and a positive presence on the Nonnewaug sideline.
“The biggest thing was that my teammates elected me captain last year, and I knew that was a higher responsibility,” Rickenbach said. “They put their trust and me, and I had to give back. I was up for debate about it, but I wanted to come back and give all I can to my team.”
First year head coach Sean Mihaly was please to have Rickenbach participate the way he did. Mihaly, who gave Rickenbach the team’s Perseverance Award at the Chiefs’ postseason banquet on Sunday, went as far as to call Rickenbach a “workhorse” for the team.
“His teammates saw that Peter had the odds against him and the world against him and he can still be like that and have that winning mentality,” Mihaly said. “That attitude spread through this team, and I think part of the reason why we fought so hard this season.”
Before the injury, Rickenbach, who saw considerable time with the varsity basketball team as a sophomore after his family moved from Virginia, was preparing to showcase his skills for college coaches.
Instead, Rickenbach missed his entire junior season, as well as some Division II scholarship opportunities. But he’ll be back at showcases again soon, and is also looking at getting a degree from a school like Marist, Georgetown, or George Washington University. And after that, he wants to pursue a career in constitutional law.
But if a basketball offer comes, Rickenbach said he’d be willing to listen.
“I’m really excited about playing basketball again, and I’m more humbled by it,” said Rickenbach, who is a captain of the Chiefs’ basketball team. “I have a different feeling about life in general, and I just want to go out there and do my best.”
Rickenbach’s best goes beyond the football field and basketball court. He is the President of Nonnewaug’s National Honor Society, and an accomplished violinist. In fact, music teachers in the elementary schools have told students who are hesitant about playing a stringed instrument that the captain of the football team is a violinist.
“I love the violin and I was always nervous about playing it, especially going into football and sports,” Rickenbach said. “But I’m glad I can have kids look up to me and I can be an architect for that.”
Mihaly said Its very few and far between, and very slim, to find a kid like Peter Rickenbach, and that he’s glad to have had the chance to coach him.
“No one has done it the way he’s done it since I’ve been around this game,” Mihaly said. “And that’s a testament to him and his family and this school.”