Back in the day, if you lined up against defensive lineman Max Richman, you knew what you were facing.
It was like trying to stop an oncoming tractor on foot.
Richman had brute strength that few could match. But after suffering two serious knee injuries, including one last season in his first year at the University of Puget Sound, the California native knew he had to change his ways if he wanted to continue to play football.
To take pressure off his surgically repaired knees, Richman lost nearly 30 pounds after a rigorous offseason workout program.
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And he’s back in the middle of the Loggers defensive line, using a new way to disrupt the line of scrimmage: speed.
“You can see him at times revert back to the stuff he had done when he was 25-30 pounds heavier,” UPS coach Jeff Thomas said. “But he is a really, really smart football player. He makes the corrections before coaches get to him.”
Richman suffered his first knee injury as a junior at Granada Hills High School in 2011. On the play, he was undercut by a running back while going in for a tackle.
“I tried shaking it off,” Richman said. “The next play, I fell down and tried to get up, but I couldn’t. It felt like someone had taken the bottom part of my leg off.”
Richman tore both major ligaments in his right knee — the anterior cruciate ligament (ACL) and medial collateral ligament (MCL), as well as the meniscus.
He recovered in time to play his entire senior season — at 290 pounds.
For his first two seasons at California Lutheran University, Richman shed a few pounds to get to 275.
Pursuing an exercise science degree, Richman transferred to UPS in July 2015. And after training camp a month later, he was named a starter for the Loggers.
“He was just a big, move-people-straight-back defensive lineman,” Thomas said.
Nearly four years to the day after hurting his right knee, Richman wrecked his left knee on a noncontact play in a game at Willamette University.
Shortly after that, head UPS athletic trainer Craig Bennett met with Richman to discuss his football future. Bennett said the biggest key was for Richman to lose enough weight to keep pressure off the joint.
Richman had the surgery in late October, and decided to curb his frivolous eating habits.
“I knew how easy it would be to gain weight being on crutches,” Richman said. “I put myself on a severe meal plan where I’d heat up a half of a sandwich and eat a couple of pretzels — stuff like that.”
Four weeks after his surgery, Richman got on the scale. He weighed 219 pounds.
“The scale made me feel good about myself,” Richman said. “That is when I kind of realized I wanted to play smaller.”
Fortunately for him, he had a UPS teammate, Dustin Harrison, going through knee rehabilitation at the same time. As Richman described it, “I did his lower-body receiver workout with him, and he did my upper-body defensive lineman workout.”
Richman said his biggest challenge was trying to keep up with Harrison’s cardiovascular workouts.
“You know, if he did 20 minutes on the Stairmaster at a 10-degree incline, I would try and do 20 minutes at an 8 (degree incline),” Richman said.
“He was 170 pounds, so I was not really supposed to keep up with him. But it was a good push.”
Trimmed down and fully healthy, Richman immediately felt the results of his hard offseason work. Coming into training camp at 240 pounds, he ran the same 300-yard shuttle for testing purposes.
“When I first came in (in 2015) and ran it, my time was 1:06,” Richman said. “This year, I ran it in 52 seconds. It was definitely the fastest I’d ever been.”
With Richmand so much lighter — and faster — Thomas is now using him more on twists and stunts to create backfield pressure.
“He is having a very good year in his own right,” Thomas said.