By Dan Campana
When the CPD Enforcers – the Chicago Police Department’s football team – hit the field for their first home game on Saturday, they’ll do it once again with the support of county and suburban officers.
The team entered its 13th season with a squad that includes a baker’s dozen of “Outside” Enforcers that include officers from the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, Cook County Forest Preserve Police, Will County, Riverside, Forest Park, Wheeling, Naperville and Chicago Heights.
Although they might not work for CPD, the outsiders fit right in to the team’s passion for football and raising money for charitable causes, according Wheeling Police Officer Rick Richardson, who is in his fifth year with the Enforcers – four of which as a team captain.
“I love playing and have made great friends over the years,” said Richardson, who plays middle linebacker and fullback/running back. “It’s nice to be able to play with fellow police officers and talk about the job after our games. It feels great to play for such a good cause and help raise thousands of dollars every year for these charities.
“We wish more people knew about our league and came to our games. Tickets are only $10 and all the proceeds go to charity,” he added.
Off to a 2-0 start in the National Public Safety Football League, the Enforcers host the San Diego Enforcers at 6 p.m. Saturday at Lane Tech High School in Chicago. CPD swept its two-game road trip with a 42-7 win over Orlando and a 42-10 victory against Columbus to open the season.
After Saturday, the Enforcers close the regular season schedule with home games against Inland Empire on May 12 and then the annual mega-rivalry First Responders Bowl against the CFD Blaze on June 2.
“CFD is our big rival. Last year we beat them, which was my greatest memory,” Richardson said, noting the firefighters had taken the two previous games between the teams.
On that hot, humid day at Brother Rice High School last June, the Enforcers gutted out the win in un-football-like conditions thanks to a big plays on both sides of the ball. Richardson was part of a momentum-swinging sequence when he intercepted a CFD pass and then, while being tackled, lateraled the ball to another veteran outsider, Forest Park’s George Hickey, who took it to the house for the tag-teamed pick six.
“A huge play in the game,” Richardson recalled.
Richardson is no stranger to competitive football. He won a state title with Prospect High School in 2005, won a junior college championship with Harper College in 2008 and was the starting fullback for three years at Western Illinois University. The Leathernecks made it to the FCS Playoffs during Richardson’s junior season.
He also plays flag football for the Windy City Hammers in a competitive 8v8 league. Richardson’s tenure with the Enforcers came out of a chance meeting at the gym with Ed Zbikowski – father of former Notre Dame standout Tom Zbikowski, who played in the NFL. The elder Zbikowski coached the CFD team, but put Richardson in touch with CPD’s staff.
“I had no idea there was a CPD football team,” Richardson shared. “They next day I got a call from CPD Coach Tim Kusinski and he invited me to come out for the team. I came to practice … and loved it.”
A little bit of luck is how Enforcers rookie Marco Scalzetti, a Naperville police officer, got involved with the team.
“I was on a boat over the summer with some friends. We got to talking with the guys on the boat next to us. Turns out they were cops and played on the team. We exchanged numbers and I got in touch with them later on. The next thing I know, I’m getting pads and am at practice later that week,” said Scalzetti, who played football at Downers Grove South High School and St. Xavier University.
Scalzetti, a wide receiver, acknowledges he didn’t know what to expect when he started, but has been impressed by what he’s seen so far.
“The football IQ throughout the team is high. The offense is pretty complex and it’s going to take some time to learn,” Scalzetti explained. “The biggest thing I’m learning about the team as a whole is that everyone wants to be out there. It’s not like playing college football where sometimes you’re out there grinding because of a scholarship. There’s no obligation (here), the people come out because it’s a tight-knit family and people really enjoy themselves.”
On a larger level, Scalzetti, who joined Naperville police in 2017, appreciates the Enforcers overall mission.
“I was shocked by how much money is raised for various charities. It’s nice to see the charity work and the support … especially in today’s day and age with the scrutiny (on police),” he said. “It feels really good to get involved.”
Richardson expects a tough game against San Diego. Making it a bit tougher for him is the fact he’ll miss the contest due to a personal commitment.
“Starting 3-0, all in league play, would be huge for us. I have faith in my teammates and know they will win without me,” Richardson said confidently.
The 2018 “Outside” Enforcers (according to CPD Enforcers roster on April 20)
- Alsip Police: Dan Heimerdinger
- Chicago Heights Police: Christian Daigre
- Cook County Sheriff’s Department: Josh Rodriguez, Craig Maddox, Vince Feldman, Darren Ganir, Fernando Ruiz
- Cook County Forest Preserve Police: John Simmons
- Forest Park Police: George Hickey
- Naperville Police: Marco Scalzetti
- Riverside Police: Jim Lazansky
- Wheeling Police: Rick Richardson
- Will County: Desmond Warren
(Cover photo courtesy of Rick Richardson)