NEW LEXINGTON — The passion for football runs deep in those living in Perry County. For one New Lexington resident, his passion for the New Lexington football program has become one of devotion and tradition.
Richard Norrish has been donating and supplying the New Lexington Panthers football team with fruit for the past 23 years. Norrish purchases the fruit from the local Kroger located on Carroll Street in New Lexington.
“They need this,” Norrish told The Perry County Tribune. “Because two-a-days (practice) is very hot out there and they need to replenish.”
As of this date, the New Lexington football team is preparing for its upcoming fall season. Summer training camp for the team started on Aug. 1. That date was also the first day of two-a-day practices where players practice, rain or shine, twice in one day. Practices for the team start at 8 a.m. and end at 2 p.m.
During the late summer days, the 40-player Panther’s football team practices during the extreme heat of the summer while also dealing with fatigue and soreness. Players, if they are not attentive, run the risk of getting cramps as they sweat in the heat of the sun. Norrish stated that players who practice in the heat need to be replenished, which is why he does what he does.
Norrish has been working at the local Kroger for 32 years. He first started donating fruits and water to the Panther’s football team when Gary Tipin was the head coach of the football program. Tipin and the coaching staff asked Norrish if he would help out the football team and Norrish answered the call. His love for the program and the kids that are in it pushed him to donate his time and his resources.
“I love New Lex football and I love the kids,” Norrish said. “I keep in contact with them year in year out.”
Norrish was not the only one who was willing to donate to the football team. Shortly after being contacted by the team, Norrish turned to his local Kroger branch to see if they could also help with the donations.
Norrish and the Kroger branch, every start to training camp, brings fruit for the football team. They bring various kinds of fruit including watermelons, oranges, bananas and more. All this charity stems from a passion.
Norish is also a product of New Lexington and the football program. He went to New Lexington High School back in the 1970s and played football for most of his youth. He played football through elementary school, middle school and for some of his high school years. Norrish played his career as offensive guard and tight end.
One of his favorite memories about the local football program was witnessing Drew Cannon play for the Panther’s unit. Norrish stated that Cannon was “the best running back he had ever seen.”
Cannon is a typical name and face around New Lexington. Not only does he currently serves as the county auditor, but also as a role model for those on the Panther’s team to admire and look up to. In 2001, Cannon scored the most points by an individual in 2001 when the Panthers took on the Morgan Raiders. There, he would score 44 points which is a state record.
Cannon also holds a few more records as a New Lexington Panther. In 2001, he scored the most points by an individual in one season which was 259. He also hold the most career points scored in his 1999-2001 football career.
Norrish’s passion for the community and it’s football team has caught the attention of others in the community. His Kroger co-worker, Cooper Thorp, works with Norrish in the fruit and vegetable section of the grocery store and was, at one point, a member of the New Lexington Panthers football team.
“I’ve known him since freshman year when I got into high school,” Thorp said. “You can tell he just really cares about the kids — he really spends a lot of time and effort treating us right with the fruit he brings in.”
Thorp was also the recipient of Norrish’s charity. Thorp, a recent graduate of New Lexington, played on the offensive line as well as defensive end for the Panthers. He stated that Norrish always comes out for the first week of two-a-days and comes to all the games. When he first saw Norrish and the work that he did, Thorp was filled with gratitude.
Since graduating from New Lexington, Thorp now works alongside Norrish at Kroger, and gets to know Norrish on a more personal level.
“He is just the same person he is there,” Thorp said. “He is just a really uplifting person — he really cares about the football team — he is just a good person to get to know.”