The Poor Woman Who Was Run Over By A New England Patriot Tells Us Her Story
When 63-year-old Janie Ritchie was accidentally run over by New England Patriots receiver Darnell Jenkins on August 11, one thought crossed her mind: "Where's my gun?" And if you were in her position, you'd have thought that, too.
Of course, that's because you'd be a member of the Patriots' End Zone Militia , and your job would require carrying that gun. While the End Zone Militia might not be a "real" militia, those guns are real guns.
Yes, Ritchie is the woman who was accidentally decked by Jenkins at last Thursday's Patriots-Jaguars preseason game. And yes, she's okay.
How okay? During our correspondence with Ritchie, she actually requested a photo commemorating getting run over by an NFL player. While we didn't have quite what she was looking for in that department, we do, of course, have video of the accident. Here's what it looked like:
It happened quickly. In Ritchie's words, she'd "just started to turn" when suddenly, there was Jenkins. Next thing she knew, she hit the ground: "I didn't know who he was; I didn't know what hit me."
As for why she didn't move when an NFL wideout was hurtling towards her, Ritchie wasn't "in the zone," as she put it, and she blamed herself for not being alert enough. We asked if that had anything to do with it being the first game, and while she conceded that was possible, it probably had more to do with the game being on a Thursday. After all, the End Zone Militia might be a demanding gig, but it's not a full-time job. "We get tired," she said. "Especially a Thursday night, you come from work."
And yes, though she more than lived to tell about it, it did hurt. She didn't think it was bad at first, and hey, Jenkins was going fast, but he's only listed at 5-10, 191. It's not like Ritchie was trucked by, say, 6-6, 265-pound tight end Rob Gronkowski. Of course, we should also mention this about Ritchie: she's five feet tall...and 63 years old. Suddenly, the fact that the after-effects of the hit were "just aches and pains" becomes all the more impressive.
Something else, though, we found in talking to Ritchie: sure, the accident was crazy to watch (and to be involved in; Ritchie called it "quite an amazing moment" when she first contacted us), but as happens so often, Ritchie's journey to that moment was more compelling than the destination. Most striking to us about the journey was that, for the most part, it involved hating football.
Ritchie's been a re-enactor for about three decades now (this, working at Patriots games, a pronounced accent - she's so New England it pretty much jumped through the phone), but one could be forgiven if they didn't expect her re-enacting would lead her to the "chest-beating, 'I'm the best'" atmosphere of football she never cared for. But the End Zone Militia is a prime gig in the re-enacting game ("Everyone wants to be there," Ritchie told us)...and against all odds, the Patriots grew on her.
"The first couple years [on the End Zone Militia] it was sad," she told us. "I literally had to learn football."
Of course, if you have to learn, there aren't many better teams than the Patriots, who haven't won fewer than 10 games in a season since Ritchie started, made the playoffs eight out of 10 years from 2001 to 2010, and look as formidable as ever heading into this season.
And it helped immensely that Patriots players treated her well - you don't call a group "my boys," as Ritchie called the Pats, if you don't feel welcome (she singled out former Patriot Ben Watson as a particular mensch). "You just feel like you're a part of something special," she said of her role in the Patriots' game day experience, and considering the team's remarkable record of recent success, no matter what your feelings on the Patriots (Lord knows there are people on both sides of that fence), that's hard to argue.
And so it's pretty clear that being inadvertently knocked to the ground by a professional football player didn't diminish Ritchie's passion for being on the End Zone Militia - if anything, the decidedly non-quiet moment for a woman who says she mostly lives a quiet life enhanced it.
In fact, we thought about asking her at one point if the whole "getting inadvertently knocked over by a professional football player" thing would make it tougher to focus on the job in the future, for fear of getting hit again. Eventually, we realized we didn't even need to. One little incident wasn't about to derail her enthusiasm for something that only comes around 10 times a year. The End Zone Militia "is something I really look forward to," Ritchie told us. "If that means I'm gonna get smacked on the ground, I'm in." Take it from us: listening to her talk about it, it's hard not to be in.
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