After 34 years, equipment manager Ken Hart will turn over the keys to his hallowed space in the Robins Center in June. Defensive lineman Justin Williamson, ’15, sat down with Hart to talk about his career serving generations of Spider athletes.
What’s the best aspect of your job?
There are very few mornings where I put my feet on the ground and dread going to work. I know people who dislike what they are doing, and I feel bad for those individuals but lucky for myself. Seeing these young players grow from when they come in at 18 to when they leave at 22 is a major deal for me. The way they view life is changed for the better during their time here, and I find great value in that.
Are there certain players that will be forever engrained in your memory?
I wish I could remember everyone, but I can’t. I’ve been here for 34 years. I’ve built countless friendships with football players because I’m around them the most. Shawn Barber, ’98, is a guy who stands out because he had an amazing work ethic. He came in as a stick and ended up playing 10 years in the NFL. Outside of football, [baseball player] Sean Casey, ’95, is just an unbelievable guy.
Through your 34 years, is there a specific year that was more incredible than the others?
The 2008 football season was the pinnacle. Richmond isn’t thought about as the biggest football school, but things fell in place for us that season. We ended up beating Appalachian State and making a run in the playoffs. Then we ended up in Chattanooga on the most unbelievable night in December playing for [and winning] the national championship. It was just a great year.
What type of impact do you like to have on a student-athlete’s life?
I really work at how I develop connections, especially with the football players because my responsibility is to protect them. I like to build a “treat me like you would like to be treated” relationship. I always told my son that when you get a job, you meet the boss then you go meet the custodian. Not because you want stuff, but to treat everybody equally. It’s mutual respect. By the time the players leave, most of them treat me with the level of respect that they would have for the coach.
What type of impact do the players have on your life?
I have the utmost respect for all student-athletes at Richmond. It’s a Division I school, but it’s notorious for being a heavily academic school. People don’t understand what it takes to be a student-athlete here. The academic challenges along with the hours in the weight room, film room, and practicing are very difficult. It’s unbelievable how they are able to manage their time to successfully do all these tasks. Then it’s highly rewarding to see them walk out with a college degree.
This piece was originally published in the University of Richmond Magazine, Winter 2015.