Actor, singer, writer, football player - at the age of 81, Rosey Grier is most of all a man of wisdom. One-fourth of the Rams’ famed Fearsome Foursome, Grier went on post-NFL to fulfill many significant roles within American society. But, when you talk to him still to this day, football seems to be his philosophical foundation and where his most important life lessons stem from.
Grier was in St. Louis to host ‘An Afternoon with Rosey Grier,’ at the Missouri History Museum, at which he discussed the documentary Third and Long: The History of African Americans in Pro Football 1946–1989, and expanded on his experiences with diversity. Beforehand, he shared his intended message.
“The message is that it takes a team to win,” Grier said. “One man will not win a game or one president will not rule a country. Every citizen has a part to play in that country. Every athlete on the team has a very vital part to play, whether he is in the lineup or he’s running down on special teams, every person – if they want to win – they have to give it everything that he or she has.”
A consistent trend that can be noticed when talking with Grier is that with each question asked, whether it pertains to football or not, the story always comes back full circle to football and what he learned from being a teammate and playing as a unit.
“It (football) taught me that I am a part of society,” Grier said. “I have a part to play in society.”
When Senator Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated outside the Ambassador Hotel, Grier was by his side and helped apprehend Sirhan Sirhan. After that night and what had transpired, Grier decided to retire from football because he knew that if he went back, he would have spent the whole season talking about the assassination.
“It would have been wise (to go back and play) because there was a lot I could have said had I known what I know today, but I didn’t,” Grier said. “I want people today to realize that we have a chance in our own self to make a big difference in our society.”
After retiring in 1967, Grier appeared in several movies and television shows including ‘The Cosby Show’, he wrote several books, most notably ‘Needlepoint for Men’, and also served as a humanitarian and political activist.
“I thought that I was living for nothing,” Grier said. “My life was of no value and yet, I was spending time with the President, I was spending time will all the famous people in Hollywood and all over the place. I realized that we’re all doing it without the knowledge and understanding of the creator. The most valuable thing I learned in my life, the only thing that makes any difference in my life is that there is a God and he loves me.”
When Grier first came to the Rams in 1963, the team was dealing with internal struggles regarding team chemistry and racial agendas. Everyone had a clicke they belonged to and the results were seen on the field in a series of losses.
“I came straight from New York Giants to be a defensive lineman and that was what I was going to do, play defense,” Grier said. “If they wanted to play defense, let’s play together; we can win that way. And so the Fearsome Foursome became the glue that pulled that team together defensively, and they became a great team again.”
Once the team began respecting each other and played together, the wins starting coming and that is where a lot of the Grier’s favorite Rams memories live now. With the passing of Deacon Jones this past June, Grier is the only living member of the illustrious defensive line. He shared some of those memories that stick out in his mind, telling the stories as if he was talking to the media at his locker right after the game.
“We were playing the Green Bay Packers and they had driven all the way down the field on us and we had the great Fearsome Foursome. We had called a time-out, everybody wanted to know what to do. So we said, let’s run a blitz. So the quarterback walks out of the huddle and he’s a tall white kid, and said, ‘Set-two, het-two,’ and he doesn’t realize that the Fearsome Foursome is coming. On my left was Deacon Jones running 199 (miles and hour), on my right Merlin Olsen, 6-(foot)-5’, 274 pounds and on the other side Merlin has me, I’m almost 300 pounds, I’m coming. Lamar Lundy, 6-(foot)-7’, he’s coming and we have all of our linebackers watching us. So he hikes the ball and fades back to pass, he closes his eyes and while he has his eyes closed a voice speaks to him and the voice says, ‘You better open up your eyes.’ He opens up his eyes and standing in his face was Deacon Jones, Deacon hit him, Merlin Olsen hit him, Lamar hit him and I want to hit him too, but they’ve all got him covered. So Deacon hit the ball and it popped up in the air and I’m looking at the football up in the air and I’m supposed to yell out, we had been trained, if the ball is in the air, yell out, ‘Ball.’ Merlin turned around and got the football. I was so mad. Merlin took the ball and he started running down the field, so I ran and I caught Merlin and I said, ‘Merlin, let me carry the ball some.’ Merlin said, ‘No man, I’m carrying it all the way.’ I said, ‘Well, let me carry it for a little while and I’ll give it back to you.’ He said, ‘I’m carrying it all the way.’ So I didn’t block for him and he didn’t make it (to the endzone).”
Although Grier never got his chance to snag a ball and run it back for a touchdown, he still manages to find the moral in the story.
“Because I didn’t prepare myself to catch the ball, when I had a chance to run 95 yards for a touchdown, I didn’t do it because I wasn’t prepared,” Grier said. “The idea is if you want to play the game you must prepare yourself.”
Back then and in the present day, Rosey Grier serves as a great example of the positive role that professional football players can play in society based on the principles they learn alongside their teammates, on and off the field.