A TRIB­UTE TO SALAAM

Notes, flow­ers adorn park bench, tro­phy

The Denver Post - - SPORTS - By Nick Kos­mider Nick Kos­mider: 303-954-1516, nkos­mider@den­ver­post.com or @nick­kos­mider

Ime Salazar on Wed­nes­day takes a pho­to­graph of the Heis­man Tro­phy that leg­endary Buf­faloes run­ning back Rashaan Salaam won in 1994. The Uni­ver­sity of Colorado Foot­ball Legacy Hall was opened to the pub­lic Wed­nes­day to give peo­ple an op­por­tu­nity to pay their re­spects to the late player, whose body was found Mon­day in a park in Boul­der.

boul­der» On a frozen bench in the mid­dle of snow-blan­keted Eben G. Fine Park, a soli­tary bou­quet of flow­ers and a hand­writ­ten note paid trib­ute Wed­nes­day to a leg­end lost far too soon.

“Rest in Peace Rashaan!” the note read. “You’ll al­ways be a hero of mine brother. CU Buff for life. No mat­ter what.”

It was here Rashaan Salaam, the 1994 Heis­man Tro­phy win­ner and Colorado leg­end, is sus­pected to have ended his own life Mon­day, his body dis­cov­ered that bit­terly cold evening by a passer-by who was vis­it­ing the park. Salaam was 42.

Be­hind the bench on which the flow­ers rested, wa­ter rushed un­der par­tially frozen seg­ments of Boul­der Creek as bun­dled-up run­ners pep­pered the path nearby. It was oth­er­wise quiet in the place where Salaam’s life ended.

Two miles down Ara­pa­hoe Road, in a hall­way ad­ja­cent to Fol­som Field, a few fans walked into Legacy Hall to pay their re­spects. The cen­ter­piece of this cor­ri­dor is the Heis­man Tro­phy that Salaam was awarded 22 years ago af­ter rush­ing for 2,055 yards as a ju­nior.

Flow­ers adorned the foot of the tro­phy, while a stuffed teddy bear with a CU em­blem rested on the other side. Note cards rest­ing on a table gave fans a chance to share a mem­ory or a mes­sage about the iconic run­ning back.

One fan who walked by the shrine was Jay MacIn­tyre, the cur­rent CU wide re­ceiver and son of coach Mike MacIn­tyre.

“He left a legacy on this place,” Jay MacIn­tyre said. “He showed this is a place that you can be great. He wore a Colorado jersey and won the Heis­man, and he’s the only one to do it. He goes down as a leg­end, as one of the great­est to ever do it, and we walk by this ev­ery day.”

CU play­ers, who re­turn to prac­tice Fri­day in prepa­ra­tion for their Dec. 29 ap­pear­ance in the Alamo Bowl, pass Salaam’s Heis­man each day on their way to the weight room in­side the glis­ten­ing Cham­pi­ons Cen­ter.

They also pass by a video board that Wed­nes­day was loop­ing high­lights of Salaam’s record­break­ing sea­son in 1994 that in­cluded 24 touch­downs and a gaudy av­er­age of 6.9 yards per carry.

It also in­cluded a three-touch­down per­for­mance in a Fi­esta Bowl vic­tory over Notre Dame that pro­pelled 11-1 CU to a No. 3 na­tional rank­ing to end the sea­son.

Re­minders of those ac­com­plish­ments were ev­ery­where Wed­nes­day, and many are sure to be shared dur­ing a fu­neral cer­e­mony in Boul­der, which Salaam’s mother, Kha­landa, told 9NEWS will take place Fri­day or Satur­day.

Many ques­tions re­main, though, about what led up to Salaam’s tragic death. Rick Neuheisel, who was the Buffs of­fen­sive co­or­di­na­tor dur­ing Salaam’s Heis­man sea­son in 1994, said he was told by one of the run­ning back’s for­mer team­mates that Salaam had dealt with de­pres­sion.

“I spoke to TJ Cun­ning­ham, who was a team­mate of his, and he said, ‘You know what? There were some bouts with de­pres­sion,’ ” Neuheisel said Wed­nes­day dur­ing an ap­pear­ance on “The Dan Pa­trick Show.” “In sit­u­a­tions like this, I think we all wish we had reached out and known more.”

Cliff Grass­mick, Daily Cam­era

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