February 27, 2012 — Auburn fans come in all shapes and sizes. We are rich and we are poor, we are outspoken and we are meek, we are black and white and everything in between. First and foremost, however, we are family. We are all brothers and sisters united in a like passion, bound by a spirit unlike any other.
That’s what makes the news that Johnny Richmond, 59, better known to thousands of Auburn fans as Mr. Penny, was gravely injured Monday by what appears to be a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Penny was an employee of Dean Road Elementary School for 37 years and also served as crossing guard there. He was known by countless students for his sunny disposition and always bright smile.
He was also one of the biggest Auburn fans you’d ever want to meet.
He brought boundless enthusiasm and flair to Auburn football games where he could be found doing pushups on the brick wall behind the north endzone.
He did 50 pushups every time the Tigers put points on the board. He added 20 more for each first down or sack. It was a tradition he started in 2000 and kept up even as Gus Malzahn’s offense spun the scoreboard lights.
Sometimes he sported his trademark Auburn baseball helmet, other times he wore a regular cap. He almost always had on orange and blue gloves. For many fans, seeing Mr. Penny’s beaming face was as much a part of gameday tradition as the eagle flight, Aubie or Bodda Getta.
Mr. Penny loved Auburn. And Auburn loved him right back. Thousands upon thousands of us who didn’t know him personally counted Mr. Penny among our friends.
In 2010 Dean Road parents started an online campaign to raise funds to pay for a trip to the BCS Championship game in Glendale. Support poured in.
By Christmas the fund had enough to purchase a three-day travel package for Richmond and his wife that included game tickets, hotel accommodations, air travel, a set of luggage, a digital camera, certificates to Auburn stores and a variety of other gifts.
He was presented the travel package in a surprise ceremony at the conclusion of the school’s Christmas program.
“This lets me know just how much this community cares about me,” Mr. Penny said then.
If reports regarding the nature of his injury are correct, it’s hard to fathom what could have driven a man beloved by so many to such an extreme.
Our thoughts and prayers are with him and his family, as they are all members of ours, the Auburn family.