Community-minded players face up to the real world after football

THE BALTIMORE SUN

For two hours, Maurice Crum's only concern across the practice field was tackling the player with the ball.

Pads cracked so hard you thought the players in them would crumple like Beetle Bailey after a beating from Sarge. Survival and concentration. The real world is a million miles away.

When the University of Miami football team had finally drilled itself out, Crum rested his helmet on the grass and related the concerns of every young father raising a child. In this case,

Maurice Jr., age 4.

"It's not easy out there anymore," said Crum, Miami's All-America linebacker and proud daddy. "It's a lot worse now than when I was a kid. There's a lot of problems."

The problems were all around Crum as he stood on the Hurricanes' practice field. He spoke from within a city, like so many others, where crack cocaine is easier to find than an open ball field, a city where the number of homeless, forgotten and abandoned, continues to grow.

The soundtrack of the next generation will not be the soothing harmonies and acoustic guitars of the '60s, the insipid disco beat of the '70s or the image-conscious New Kids of the '80s. It will be the angry rage of rap. Public Enemy. N.W.A.

"I worry for my son because his generation has it so much tougher," Crum said. "I see it when I visit the schools. I'm concerned about the sexual diseases and drugs. Drugs . . . that's a big problem. The addicts will kill you for it and steal for it. It revolves around everything."

Like hundreds of other college football players, Crum will be playing in bowl games for school spirit, school alumni and bowl representatives in suits and ties. But when the numbered jersey is removed, Crum, and a few others like him, will place a stake in trying to change the future.

A future, Crum said, "with a million concerns." And too few who will try to correct them.

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"You have to think about the Persian Gulf crisis. I have a couple friends in the Middle East. I used to play ball with them. They were in the reserves, but they got called up about three weeks ago. No one has heard from them. It concerns me a lot, you know, because I see them starting to send body bags over there. It makes you stop and think."

=1 Stacy Long, All-America tackle from Clemson.

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Sam Gash doesn't ask what the specific problems are. "There's really no need to," he said.

Instead, the Penn State fullback simply tries to help the children who make up The Second Mile program.

"If they want to talk, go into deep detail about a problem, that's fine," Gash said. "Otherwise, we just try to have fun and maybe make things easier for them."

The Second Mile, funded through individual, corporate and foundation contributions, was founded in 1977 by Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky. The idea, said Sandusky, who adopted five children and became foster parents to three more, "was to provide a home with a family-type setting for children who were having problems. We wanted to give them a second chance."

In 1982, The Second Mile started a foster home for six children. The program provides services to 51,000 children statewide who have been battered and abused, lack parental encouragement or lack a foundation to make positive choices.

The Second Mile has eight programs, including a summer camp, the Better Chance program, which provides housing for gifted minorities, and a set of trading cards featuring 16 Penn State football players who write on the back of their card about today's problems.

Gash, a native of Hendersonville, N.C., learned about The Second Mile his freshman season.

"I knew I wanted to become more involved with young people," he said. "When I first got here, I heard some older guys talking about the program. I attended a few functions and really got involved in it."

Gash serves as a liaison between the players and the program. He's also part of the Friend Program, in which hundreds of Penn State student volunteers meet with Second Mile children twice a month.

"We'll go bowling, have a picnic, maybe go swimming," Gash said. "Some kids get attached to you, and I've gotten close to two or three of them who come from broken homes. It's hard on them."

Gash, said Hank Lesch, the program's director of community relations, is one of the hardest workers. Maybe it's because he seems to understand just how hard it can be. Gash grew up in a single-parent home. "I'd say lower middle class," Gash said.

His message to the program's children is on the back of his trading card. He writes about his inability to get the best sports equipment as a child because of his family's budget.

"So when your sneakers aren't the greatest, remember, it's not what you have or wear but who you are and what you do."

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"I'm concerned with overcoming deafness, and I'm starting to realize that I'd like to be a role model for deaf children. I want to learn more about it and learn how to overcome it. I'm studying more about deafness. I really started working on it last year, and it's benefited me greatly. I hope it will help others."

Kenny Walker, All-America defensive tackle from Nebraska, as signed to Julie Smith.

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The fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha was founded in 1906. According to Ken McKay, the University of Louisville tight end, it is the first black Greek-lettered organization in the country. An organization high on scholarship and love of mankind," said McKay, who proudly added that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was an Alpha.

Two years ago, McKay, a former president of Alpha Phi Alpha, and his fraternity brothers wanted to give something back to the community. "We wanted to help salvage some of the younger children who were having trouble," McKay said. Through their concern was born the Community Project-Martin Luther King Elementary School.

The project "is like a Big Brother thing," McKay said. "The school is for grades 2 through 6, and we give kids who might be having trouble in school a role model to look up to."

McKay's was paired with a child this year "who was having a little problem in school and kind of took a liking to me."

"He was a normal kid he wasn't slow or anything but he was from an extended family," McKay said. "He was living with his mother and grandmother, but there was no male in the house. Sometimes, that's hard for a kid. The framework of the household is so important. Let's face it, a two-parent family is ideal for instituting ideals and discipline.

"It's been kind of hard lately because of my schedule. But he knows I'm there for him, and he has my number."

McKay says his energies have remained with the project and the upcoming Fiesta Bowl despite protests about the bowl game's being played. It was just weeks ago that Arizona voted down a proposal to honor King with a paid state holiday.

Despite his work at the mostly black Martin Luther King school and his involvement in Alpha Phi Alpha, McKay said the Fiesta Bowl provides "a golden opportunity."

"I know what the problems are, but this is why you sweat and bleed in August," McKay said. "There was no protest from the fraternity, and we have two chapters here, and there's five members on the team."

McKay said the national exposure of the Fiesta Bowl and the controversy surrounding the game could also bring about awareness of deeper racial problems.

"We can make people open their eyes," McKay said. "We can express to people how we feel. It's an opportunity we must take. Like my mother and father before me, it's my turn to institute upon others the knowledge I have learned about racism and drugs. I can challenge them.

"Things are different today. When I was a kid, there were drugs, but they weren't there as soon as they are now. Today, kids have to get a hold of their values fast. Sometimes it's a cruel world, and all I can do is pray every day and hold on."

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"I talk to kids a lot around the South Bend area and try and get them to stay in school and keep their lives straight. I was arrested for drunk driving (last year), so I tell them to stay away from drugs and learn from their mistakes or they'll catch up with you. A lot of people say they want to live their lives without publicity, but when you're on a high-profile team, kids see you as a role model, and maybe I can help them right some of their ways in life."

G; Mike Stonebreaker, All-America linebacker, Notre Dame.

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Mike Sullivan's schedule has been full the past three years.

There were speaking engagements at the Boys Club, time given to the "Just Say No to Drugs" program, visits to elementary schools.

"It's hard to say no when you have a little free time," said the Miami offensive tackle. "After all, you take so much from the community."

But one of the special things Sullivan will take away from his days at Miami is a visit to the Children's Hospital in Miami.

"A couple of us went over there one day, and it was a very special experience," Sullivan said after practice one afternoon. "You know, you sweat out here in the sun, and you begin to complain and bellyache. But sometimes you just don't know how bad you could have it."

Sullivan figures that at least half of the children didn't even know the group from Miami were football players. And, he added, "it was probably thought of more than anything as a good public relations move for both sides."

But it was more than a photo session for Sullivan.

"The kids had all kinds of problems, but a lot of them tried not to show it," Sullivan said. "We picked them up. We hugged them. I think they needed that.

"They probably knew deep down that they were a little different. That's why some were in the hospital. But when you picked them up and held them . . . maybe they didn't think that for a moment. Maybe they weren't so different. They were just like us."

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