SPORTS HUN­DREDS PAY TRIBUTE TO RASHAAN SALAAM

Fam­ily, friends and team­mates mourn

The Denver Post - - FRONT PAGE - By Nick Kos­mider

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

Paul Aiken, Daily Cam­era

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.

Paul Aiken, Daily Cam­era

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

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