Johnny “Mr. Penny” Richmond is going to Glendale, with not one, but two tickets to the BCS National Championship Game. And some new luggage. And a Nikon CoolPix digital camera.
What started out last week as a word-of-mouth Facebook fundraiser with a $3,000 goal ended in a $9,304 avalanche of affection early this afternoon at Dean Road Elementary School.
Susan Weigel and Anna Harris, both mothers of Dean Road students, officially presented Mr. Penny if not with the actual tickets to the game, at least with the promise that they’ve been ordered.
“We’ve kind of asked people to stop giving,” laughs Harris. “We have way more than enough money so we got some things to take with him and we’re going to use the rest of it to hopefully buy him some football season tickets for next season.”
Mr. Penny is well known to members of the local Auburn community as the perpetually cheery crossing guard and custodian for Dean Road Elementary, and also to members as the larger Auburn family as an unofficial muscle-bound mascot of the Auburn Tigers who performs a point-driven push-up routine at football games.
Weigel and Harris are hoping to convince ESPN to arrange a push up contest between Mr. Penny, 57, and the Oregon Duck. Not that it would actually be a contest.
“We had a dream of seeing if we could have him doing push ups beside the Duck to see if he could out-push up the Duck,” Harris said. “Just to have him on [ESPN] for five seconds, he’d love it. During the Alabama game he did 5,000 push ups. Or it was one of those games. He does 50 for every first down, 50 for every touchdown, 50 for everything. He does 1,000 push ups each morning.”
Mr. Penny actually credits Auburn’s success this year, in part, to the calories he burns during games.
“You know, each time that I come to the game, we be down, you know what I’m sayin’?” said Mr. Penny. “I work at the Marriott, and we be down, and the fans say ‘where you been, where you been’. And I say I just got off of work. And they say we losing, so I go down front where I do my push ups at and I bring the team back, I bring’em back. They put me on the jumbo screen and they seem me and they play ball.”
He does seem to have a way with crowds; he whipped the students into a frenzy Thursday afternoon, and organized a spine-tingling student-led spell out of A-U-B-U-R-N to end the assembly with an energy not even Aubie could match. (Can’t see the video? Try here.)
Harris says if anyone deserves a free trip to see Auburn play for the national championship, it’s Mr. Penny.
“If you ever meet him, he is the happiest person I’ve ever known and the biggest fan,” Harris said. “He stands on the corner every single day in rain, snow, hot, cold. And he’s out there smiling with Auburn signs all around him. He says ‘War Eagle’ every morning and just puts you in a good mood. He helps out our children at the school more than than anyone knows and he’s biggest-hearted Auburn fan there. He’s just War Eagle all the way.”
All the way to Glendale.
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