SPORTS HUNDREDS PAY TRIBUTE TO RASHAAN SALAAM
Family, friends and teammates mourn
boulder» Six teammates who had celebrated with Rashaan Salaam through some of the highest points reached by the Colorado football program more than two decades ago trudged through the snow Friday to deliver their friend to his final resting place.
They pulled the wooden casket out of the hearse and placed it on the frozen ground next to the edge of a 6-foot hole in a corner of the Mountain View Memorial Park cemetery. Then the 1994 Heisman Trophy winner was lifted from the box, his body wrapped in a white cloth, and lowered into the ground.
One by one, friends, teammates and family members scooped up dirt and helped bury the man they remembered as much for his charismatic smile as for his long touchdown runs.
“Thank you for all the love you have for Rashaan,” his mother, Khalada, said through tears. “It really helps us.”
Salaam, perhaps the most iconic player in the history of the CU football program, died Monday night of an apparent suicide at Eben G. Fine Park in Boulder. He was remembered Friday during a nearly twohour service at the Islamic Center of Boulder.
Chair after chair was added into the worship hall as about 500 people, some attending the weekly jummah congregational prayer service, steadily streamed in and paid their respects.
At least a dozen members of Salaam’s “Nine Deuce” recruiting class of 1992 were in attendance, including former CU outside linebacker Greg Jones, who was Salaam’s roommate when the running back arrived in Boulder from San Diego for his first college training camp.
“We were all close,” said Jones, now a mortgage broker in Highlands Ranch. “He loved life. He was always having fun. We had a really good recruiting class that year, and he was the crown jewel of the class. He was just a fun-loving guy. We were all there trying to win a national championship, and that’s how it was.”
Notable names such as Michael Westbrook, Matt Russell and Shannon Clavelle were among the dozens of former CU players who came to say goodbye to Salaam. CU athletic director Rick George, chancellor Phil DiStefano and former Buffs coach Bill McCartney also attended.
A sermon during the funeral, known as the jannazah, implored Salaam’s family and friends to find comfort in the “good works” the running back did during in his life, a reference to the work he did with at-risk children within the Edgewater-based nonprofit SPIN Foundation.
“I just know that he did some good work,” said Riley Hawkins, who founded SPIN (Supporting People In Need) in 2003. “He should get a Heisman for that. Off the cuff, he was fantastic. It was spontaneous stuff that he could do that superstars do — come to the game, show up and perform. He’s a gamer, as they say.”
As the crowd dispersed and began to leave the cemetery for the warmth of their vehicles, Salaam’s former teammates shared hearty hugs and wiped away tears. The “Nine Deuce” crew posed for a photograph. They made plans to go eat. To keep sharing memories.
“Looking back now, we know we need to reach out to each other more,” Jones said. “We need to be there for everybody.”
“We were all close. He loved life. He was always having fun. We had a really good recruiting class that year, and he was the crown jewel of the class. He was just a funloving guy.”Greg Jones, a former CU teammate of Rashaan Salaam’s
Rashaan Salaam’s casket is carried to a hearse. The funeral for the former CU football star was Friday at the Islamic Center of Boulder.
Khalada Salaam-Alaji watches Friday as her son, 1994 Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam, is buried in Boulder.
Men bow in prayer Friday during the funeral for 1994 Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam at the Islamic Center of Boulder. Salaam was 42 when he died Monday of an apparent suicide. Brennan Linsley, The Associated Press
Former CU football coach Bill McCartney hugs Rashaan Salaam’s girlfriend, Shelley Martin, at the funeral for CU’s only Heisman Trophy winner. Paul Aiken, Daily Camera