He is proof of the fallibility of Murphy's Law, evidence that size does not necessarily determine athletic ability and testimony to the virtues of hard work and concern for others.
Richie Horner currently leads the Ivy League and the East in pass receptions, having snagged 34 aerials for 576 yards. With two games remaining in his college career, the senior split end ranks fourth on the all-time receiving list for Harvard with 58 catches, trailing Carter Lord, Jim Curry and Pat McInally.
If he continues at his present pace, he will likely graduate as the second leading receiver in Harvard history and will have caught more passes in a single season than anybody since McInally hauled in 56 during the 1973 campaign.
All of this from a 5-ft. 8-in., 150 lb. receiver who was a running back until his junior year in high school and has almost quit football three times in the last six years. At every level, Horner has had to prove himself; he has been successful each time.
"I wasn't going to play high school hall." Horner said before a practice this week. "I thought I was too small, but my father convinced me to try it."
After a year of JV and another as a second stringer. Horner blossomed during his senior year, catching 34 passes and being named to the all-county second team and the all-league team from San Diego's Kearny H.S.
But when he got to Harvard, Horner once again considered giving up football when his playing time on the freshman team was limited to the last few minutes of games.
Size was still the problem. Then-freshman coach Loyal Park had set the squad within a week of the player's arrival, and, probably due to size, Horner did not catch his eye.
But he did get some playing time during scrimmages with the JV and the varsity coaches liked what they saw. Horner was invited to late summer camp the next season.
But he thought about hanging up the cleats. "That's the closest I have come to quitting," Horner says. "My father is the reason I'm still playing. He honestly felt I had the ability to play and wanted me to develop it."
The South House senior attributes his rapid development as a receiver to the coaching he received that year. "My fresh-man year we really had no coach for the receivers. We spent a lot of time practicing blocking with the offensive linemen," Horner recalls. "In all honesty, I wasn't as good a receiver then as I became later."
"When he stepped into the picture, I knew we had something," coach Joe Restic says. "I just can't say enough about Richie. He's one of the easiest people we've ever had to coach."
After a year of understudying to the likes of Jim Curry (68 career receptions). Larry Brown hit Horner's now-familiar number (20) 21 times for 399 yards during the 1978 season.
Finally in his senior year. Horner was given his chance in the limelight. He started slowly, catching only six passes in the first three games from the revolving door--the Harvard quarterback slot. But as the signal-caller situation settled down. Horner got pumped up.