Tradition • Character • Service

Tradition • Character • Service

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Midland Daily News: Pat Riepma, Faith, Family, and Friends

Editor's note: Pat Riepma is a member of the Hillsdale College athletic hall of fame as a Quarterback and served as the school's offensive coordinator and SID before leaving to take over the Northwood football program in 1993.

Midland Daily News
Chris Stevens
Published: Sunday, December 13, 2009 4:21 AM EST
When Pat Riepma stepped down as head football coach at Northwood University after the 2007 season, he knew he was in for a new adventure.

What he didn't know was that his journey would include an intense battle with cancer.

This past summer, Riepma, the NU athletics director, began a fight with tongue cancer that included extensive surgery and a one-two punch of radiation and chemotherapy. Through that process, he's had to have a tracheotomy inserted in his throat to help him breathe, he's been fed through feeding tubes, a section of his tongue has been surgically removed and reconstructed, affecting his speech, and he's lost 35 pounds.

But, just like he did on the football field for 15 years, where he set the NU record for most career wins (90), Riepma has never given up and has never wallowed in self-pity. It's not in his DNA.

Riepma competed to win.

He accepted the challenge of fighting cancer and has battled all four quarters.

"I have the utmost respect for my husband. He's my hero for what he's gone through," said Sherri Riepma, his wife of 22 years. "He never complained, and never asked, 'Why me?' He was an excellent role model for our (three) boys."

Riepma, who turns 49 in February, has completed radiation and chemotherapy treatment, and is on the mend. His speech is not yet back to normal, and he's still unable to taste food. But the 6-foot, 3-inch Riepma has been able to put on five pounds, and is now up to 165 from a low of 160.

He's optimistic about his future, though, and believes God is using this trial in a positive way to reach others and give them hope.

"I feel better every day," Pat said.

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