What he’s doing is designing plays that have Prince Avenue Christian quarterback Aaron Philo leading the state in passing yards, with 3,805. The Wolverines host Metter in the state quarterfinals Friday in search for their second state title in three years.
After coaching with the Buffalo Bills, the University of Georgia and the University of Miami, Jon questioned what role he wanted football to play in his life. Now, he finds himself back where he grew up.
Back with his father in Athens.
“It is a community in which he feels that he made a great impact,” Jon said of Mark. “And they love him for it. And it’s fun for us to see our kids to see how special their grandfather was (to the Athens community).”
Mark and Katharyn Richt moved back to Athens in 2021, the same year Mark was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. The Richts said they trust the local medical care and wanted to be closer to their grandchildren, Jon and his wife Anna’s three children.
Jadyn, their oldest child, who is 8 years old, has Crohn’s disease. The constant change of scenery that comes with life as a football coach was not something they wanted to continue to put the family through.
“Stress is not good for kids with Crohn’s,” Mark said.
Jon and Anna met as students at Prince Avenue Christian. He played football for the Wolverines, in the first years that the school fielded a team. Jon, a quarterback, played a season at Clemson and transferred to Mars Hill College, where he finished his collegiate career.
Mark gave Jon his first chance as a coach. He started as a volunteer assistant on his father’s Georgia staff in 2014. But a state nepotism law wouldn’t allow Jon to be more than a volunteer assistant. He spent one year at UGA before going to the Bills as a quality control staffer for a year.
After Mark and Georgia agreed to go their separate ways in 2015, Mark accepted the head coaching position at Miami. He made a phone call to Jon, who was 26. He wanted them to coach together again, this time with his son as the quarterbacks coach.
Jon’s first reaction: “Really?”
“He was like, ‘Yeah, I believe you’re ready. And I want to give you this opportunity,’” Jon said. “And I was like, ‘All right, when do I need to be down there?’”
The relationship between Mark and Jon on the coaching staff was unique.
“Jon was bold enough to challenge things I would say or do,” Mark said. “I think a lot of times, the other offensive coaches might go to Jon and say, ‘Hey, talk to your dad about this and talk to your dad about that,’ knowing that I wasn’t going to kick him out of the family.”
Jon said that he gives more pushback to his father than the rest of his siblings do. Jon, one of four children, sees Mark as his father but also as a co-worker. It’s a unique relationship in the family because Mark to his other siblings, Jon said, is “still dad.”
Credit: Photo courtesty of Mark Richt
Credit: Photo courtesty of Mark Richt
Although they spent a total of four years on the same staff together, the father-son bond remains strong.
“I know him and his heart,” Katharyn said of her husband, “and I knew Jon and his heart, and they’re not gonna let it get in the way of their father-son relationship.”
Mark knew how to separate work from his family. When he coached at Georgia, he used the Ga. 10 loop around Athens as a marker.
“On the way to work, when I’d cross that road, I’d focus on my job. When I came home and crossed that road, I’d start focusing on my family,” he said.
Said Jon: “He was 100% on when he’s at work; he was 100% on when he’s at home.”
Jon valued his father’s approach. He is now in a position at Prince Avenue where his family can be a bigger part of his football life and he can be a bigger part of his family’s life.
When Mark tunes into the livestream on Friday nights he isn’t just watching as a casual fan. He is looking for what Jon is doing schematically and how the offense is playing.
“He’s a very gifted play-caller,” Mark said, “and just (has a) football mind.”
Just like his father.
Patrick Cassat is a student in the Sports Media Certificate program at the University of Georgia’s Carmical Sports Media Institute.