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Of athletes and heroes.


Buckeye Beach Bum
Of athletes and heroes
Sunday, May 9, 2004 By TODD PORTER Repository sports writer

CANTON -- The line stretched around the Pro Football Hall of Fame before the doors opened Saturday.

The breath of a fresh day hit fans at 7:30 a.m. Grown men held football cards and miniature helmets. Fathers held the hands of their sons, some so small they couldn’t see over the retaining wall in front of the Hall of Fame.

Once the shrine opened, the line stretched from the Hall’s theater to the front of the building. It was awfully early to be waiting for an autograph.

Who’s complaining?

A half a world away, soldiers dodged bullets. The world they once knew, places such as the Hall of Fame on a sunny Saturday, is a long way from home.

Maybe someone was in line for them. Maybe there was another graduate from McKinley High School putting his life in harm’s way who couldn’t be in that line to get autographs from a couple of high school idols turned NFL players.

McKinley graduates Mike Doss and Kenny Peterson, who make their fame and fortune in the NFL, shook hands and made small talk with former NFL great Elvin Bethea in a room inside. Bethea was enshrined last year. Doss, Peterson and Bethea were the men of the hour, the reason fans stood in line for the Best of Yesterday and Today autograph series.

Usually, Doss is a man of few words.

Saturday morning, he was virtually speechless and genuinely touched.

He listened when the story of Pfc. Jesse Buryj was told.

On Wednesday, Buryj emptied 400 rounds from his M-4 rifle into a dump truck that tried to charge through a checkpoint. Buryj killed the driver, and, in the process, kept three other U.S. soldiers alive.

The dump truck hit Buryj’s military vehicle, killing him.

Buryj had something in common with Doss and Peterson.

All three graduated from McKinley. Doss and Peterson were blessed with athletic abilities that make grown men cry. They led McKinley to state titles and a national poll title. They played key roles on Ohio State’s 2002 national championship team, and were drafted on the same day — Doss by the Colts in the second round, Peterson by the Packers in the third.

Buryj was in the McKinley marching band. After he graduated in 2002, he enlisted in the Army. Buryj wasn’t blessed with an athlete’s body.

He cornered the market on courage.

“People idolize professional athletes, and treat us like we’re heroes,” Peterson said. “In the grand scheme of things, that’s a hero. We should be honoring and idolizing guys like that.”

In his room in Iraq, Buryj didn’t have much hanging on his walls. He had a picture of his high school sweetheart and wife, Amber. Next to it was an autographed picture of Doss that Amber had sent him.

Doss doesn’t believe this.

Then, he can’t find the words to express his gratitude.

“I don’t know what to say, really,” Doss said. “That’s tough. It hits you here.”

Doss pointed to his heart.

“Those guys put their lives on the line for us ... they’re the reason we’re able to do what we do in our country,” Doss said. “We’re just entertainers. You see shows on a day in the life of a professional athlete. What we ought to do is a day in the life of a soldier.”

Likely, the thought of Pfc. Buryj stayed with Doss most of the day. He signed autograph after autograph. Maybe one of them was for someone’s soldier. Maybe one went to a little kid who held his dad’s hand. That kid probably won’t grow up to play in the NFL. The odds are more likely he could be protecting his country.

In many ways, pairing Doss and Peterson with Bethea was perfect. They are just beginning their NFL careers. Bethea played 16 seasons at defensive end for the Houston Oilers.

Bethea talked to the players about his playing days, about how he maintained longevity in a league that has a shelf life of about six years. But he could shed light on what a hero is.

Bethea’s son, Lamonte, is a lieutenant in the Navy. During last year’s enshrinement ceremonies, Lt. Bethea surprised his father with a fly over above the Hall. Lamonte Bethea has flown missions over Afghanistan and Bosnia, and was in Saudi Arabia when word arrived last year that his father would be inducted.

There are heroes and there are athletes. Saturday morning at the Hall of Fame, the athletes knew which side of life they were on.

“When you hear something like that, it’s just ...” Doss said, looking for the right word on a morning when so many of them seemed inadequate, “truly humbling.”
Of athletes and heroes

Thanks for the post. I am humbled and grateful for being an American. We often times forget that our freedom comes with a price tag, which extened 200+ years and many lives. I am from Vietnam, and I can not tell you how many of us are thankful for the Americans being there; fighting and dying for someone they don't know. I challenge all of us to make an effort to say "thank you" to the soldiers when we see them on the street...it might be the only time they will ever hear that.
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What a great story and goods posts in here. I always get a good feeling when I am on my way up to Y-town to see friends and loved ones. I look forward to going up I-77 in Canton past the NFL Hall of Fame. It gives me chills as I look out over the scenery. I know that I am close to home and feeling good to be back in the great State of Ohio. I hope that this year the NFL Hall of Fame ceremonies, include some sort of recognition in regards to Pat Tillman and all that he stood for and the sacrafice he gave. So many of the freedoms we have are taken for granted. So if you love the Freedom you have, the next time you see a Veteran please go up to him/her and extend your gratitude for all the great things we have in this country of ours.
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thats actually really damn kewl.. i had been avoiding this thread cuz i was tired of reading about pat tillman, but seeing someone like doss actually be touched by that is kinda heart warming.. i like him even more now... can i nominate him for favorite buckeye?
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