"I Want To Believe It's Not True": An Interview With The Co-Author Of Jerry Sandusky's Book, Touched

Illustration for article titled "I Want To Believe It's Not True": An Interview With The Co-Author Of Jerry Sandusky's Book, Touched

In 1991, Jerry Sandusky approached Kip Richeal, a former equipment manager with the Nittany Lions, and asked him to co-write a biographical book about the coach's life. Richeal, who'd known Sandusky since he was an 18-year-old freshman and who'd studied journalism at Penn State, agreed to the job. For a while, Sandusky mailed cassette tapes to Richeal's home in Beaver Falls, Penn., a four-hour drive from College Station State College. Richeal transcribed them and, over time, wrote the 225-page book that would become Touched: The Jerry Sandusky Story.


The book wasn't published until 2000, after Sandusky retired from his coaching job at Penn State. Prior to his retirement, Richeal said today, the publisher wasn't interested in the story; now, for obvious reasons and its unfortunate title, it's getting a lot more attention. We talked to Richeal, who was born with a condition called hip dysplasia and has been disabled his entire life, after noticing this anecdote in the introduction he'd written for the book (former NFL coach Dick Vermeil wrote the foreword):

My first real contact with Jerry Sandusky came from a rather odd question he posed to me: "How much do you weigh, young man?" I was puzzled, because I knew he wasn't interested in me as a linebacker, but I told him I weighed about 95 pounds. "Get up on that scale," he ordered. I did and the locker room scale topped out at 96.

"Not bad," Jerry said, trying to sound as mean as possible, "but you still have some work to do." Sensing my confusion, Jerry stared at me and continued. "We gotta get you up to 100 pounds before you're ready to fight me."

Fight him? I barely knew him. "When you get to 100 pounds, it's gonna be you and me in the center of the locker room in a boxing match. Then I'll show you who the real boss is. It'll be you and me eyeball-to-belly button."

When Richeal was a senior at Penn State, he finally hit 101 on the scale. He writes that once the weight had been read out to a crowded locker room, the players cheered and he and Sandusky met at the center of the room. They staged a bout—"eyeball-to-belly button"—and Richeal leveled him with "a swift (and well-rehearsed) right hook."

Richeal, now 51, said repeatedly that he had never witnessed Sandusky act inappropriately with players or with young men from Second Mile. He said the "boxing" incident wasn't anything out of the ordinary because "you don't think like that.

"Now, you know, I'd be kind of uncomfortable," he allowed, "but I had no reason to be then. It was just a running gag because I weighed under 100 pounds. He'd say, you know, 'We gotta put some meat on those bones.'"

Richeal said that Sandusky contacted him by phone in early April, just after the first allegations in the case had broken to the public. At the time, Sandusky wanted to apologize for the media attention he anticipated his co-author would receive, and to make it clear that he was innocent: "He told me, 'These things aren't true and I'm working to prove that they're not true.'" Richeal says now that Sandusky sounded "distraught and run-down from it all," and "depressed about" the situation he was in.


They spoke again in September, when Sandusky called to see when he'd be in State College for a football game. Richeal went to see the Lions play Alabama on Sept. 10 and planned on meeting Sandusky in the stands to say hello, but the former coach wasn't able to attend the game that day. He hasn't heard from him since.

Richeal, who now works for a company that makes monuments and memorials in Beaver County and volunteers as a high school baseball coach, said that he hasn't heard from investigators yet—"but I don't know what I'd tell 'em." He never witnessed anything damning, and said that Penn State's players, managers, and team personnel all respected Sandusky immensely. He repeated, though, one thing he'd also written in the introduction for Touched: "He had a way of making you seem like a bigger deal than him. I said this in the book, but with Jerry there are always two stories—the real way it went, and Jerry's way." Not that he lied—he just had a way of embellishing things.


Jerry's version, he wrote in Touched, "is usually more interesting."

In Chapter 2, called "Tylerdale" in reference to the Washington, Penn., neighborhood Sandusky grew up in, a section written in his voice begins, "I was never one to have my face plastered on the 'Ten Most Wanted' list at the Washington County Post Office, but as a teenager, I experienced my share of run-ins with the law." The former coach also dedicated the book to "all the people who have touched my life: parents; family; teachers; coaches; friends; along with the volunteers, staff and kids from The Second Mile. You will touch my life forever."


"I want to believe it's not true," Richeal said of the allegations against his friend and co-author. "I'm not an accuser or a judge, so I'll have to sit back and let it all play out. The person I knew, I never ever saw anything like that. I saw him with Second Mile kids many times—at his home, at the stadium for game days, at practices. And it was never anything like that. He never did that around me."

He added: "But I wasn't a little kid."