Jim Ritcher was born and raised in suburban Cleveland, where he developed into an all-state player with aspirations to play for his beloved Ohio State Buckeyes. Fate intervened when he met North Carolina State coach Lou Holtz, who recruited him to Raleigh to play defensive end for the Wolfpack. However, before Jim arrived on campus, coach Holtz resigned to take over the New York Jets (NFL).
Enter Bo Rein, the new coach at North Carolina State with new ideas. Coach Rein planned on implementing a new offensive system called the “Veer”. Running the “Veer” required offensive linemen who were very mobile, especially at center. Looking at his roster, Coach Rein noticed a 6’-3”, 240 pound player slated to play defense. It wasn’t long before Jim was called into Coach Rein’s office before the first practice and was presented with the new plan. “At offensive line,” he explained, “you’ll have a better chance of playing right away. Try it for a week and see if you like it.” Disappointment was evident, and, holding back tears, Jim agreed to try it; a decision that would ultimately define his career.
With Jim playing center for three of his seasons, North Carolina State running back Ted Brown went on to rush for 4,602 yards; an ACC record that stands to this day. In 1979 the Wolfpack won the ACC with a 5-1 record and Ritcher won the Outland Trophy given to the country’s top interior lineman. He was the first center to ever win the award. He was also chosen as a consensus first team All-American.
The Buffalo Bills made Jim the 16th overall choice in the 1980 draft. After one season of snapping, Ritcher was moved to guard, which better utilized his speed and quickness. He became a fixture in the Bills lineup by his fourth season and did not miss a start from 1983 to1993.
Ritcher made All-Pro three times, played in two Pro Bowls and started four Super Bowls with the Bills. His name was placed on the Bills Wall of Fame in 2004. He finished his 16-year NFL career playing two seasons with the Atlanta Falcons.
After retiring from football, Jim went on to a second career as a commercial pilot and continues to fly as a Captain, for American Airlines. He and his wife Harriet live in Raleigh. They raised three sons – John, is currently a scout for the Arizona Cardinals; Harrison, who played football for the Wolfpack, is in the personnel department with the Cleveland Browns and Nicholas, who currently plays at the University of Richmond.