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No goal line in sight Mike Rozier, Heisman Trophy winner and former NFL running back, nearly died a few months ago on a drug corner in his hometown of Camden, N.J. The shooting incident focused attention on a man and a city with...

March 02, 1997|By Mike Littwin | Mike Littwin,SUN STAFF

"Mike just doesn't want to grow up," she says. "He doesn't want to give up his childhood. I'm going to work on him. I'm going to mentor him. No child is a lost cause. That's what we believe here at Cramer. And Mike has a lot of little kid in him."

Two guys are sitting at McDonald's. Ask them about Rozier, and you get an opinion. Everyone in Camden has an opinion on Rozier.

"I don't know the brother," says Michael Jones, "but you've got to wonder about a guy who gets shot in the projects."

"I know him," says Anthony Adams. "I don't see him doing nothing. This is a hard place, and what's he doing to help? Sometimes I think, 'No hope. No hope.' "

Roy Jones is a community activist. He's not exactly excited that Rozier has come home to Camden, a city that just doesn't need any more bad publicity.

"It's one thing to move back to the city," Jones says, "but why not do something positive? Don't get caught up in that Tupac kind of syndrome. Some guys make it to the top, but the city never leaves them. They've got to go back to the corner and act like the corner boys. They don't move to a new level of maturity. Instead, they go back to the gutter with their past. It's almost like they don't want to rise above it."

Richie Holmes and his brothers run Holmes Lounge, where Rozier hangs out nearly every night. Holmes knows Rozier and knows what people are saying about him. It breaks his heart.

"Mike does a lot of positive things," he says. "I think he's still just looking for himself. I keep telling him to go back to school to get a degree. I said your goal when you left here was not to win the Heisman, it was to get a degree. I think he'd be an excellent PR man. You been with him? You already like him. Everyone who knows Mike likes him."

Ask Rozier what he'll be doing five years from now, and he says, "I never thought much about tomorrow."

He does have a girlfriend who's a lawyer. He thinks they might get married, someday. He thinks he could get a job, someday, maybe even go into the trash business. "I'm getting bored doing nothing," he says. He also says he learned a lesson from the shooting.

"I'm still going to hang out with my buddy, go to a movie or something," he says. "But as far as hanging out in different neighborhoods with him, no."

What? A sign of encroaching maturity?

Rozier laughs.

"My mama always told me you put your shoes on in morning, but you'll never know who's going to take them off," he says. "I never understood what she meant until I got shot. I definitely learned something from that."

The shock trauma nurses ripped off his shoes that November night. Guy raced down the three hours from Connecticut, even though his new restaurant was to open the next night. His mom and dad were there. His mom, Rozier remembers, was trying hard not to cry.

Doctors, nurses, friends, family, fans. All the people trying to save one person.

Imagine how hard it is to save an entire city.

Pub Date: 3/02/97

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