AFC East: George H.W. Bush

Kemp was the mouse that roared

May, 3, 2009
5/03/09
8:14
PM ET
As a rookie linebacker at Los Angeles Chargers training camp in 1960, Paul Maguire assumed he would be in for all sorts of unusual experiences.

One of the first times Maguire crouched into his stance, he couldn't believe his ears.

"He was calling signals and his voice was so high I thought 'This has got to be a joke.' And then I saw him throw," said Maguire, whose voice turned into a low, rumbling chuckle. "I said 'His voice can be as high as he wants it to be.' "
Lou Witt/Getty Images
Buffalo quarterback Jack Kemp, who led the Bills to two AFL championships, died on Saturday.

Maguire was referring to Jack Kemp, a vagabond quarterback who'd been cut by four NFL teams and failed to stick with the Canadian Football League, but whose determination and screaming ambition would make him one of America's strongest voices.

"Whatever he decided he was going to do was done," Maguire said.

After years of taxi squads and pink slips, Kemp proved himself a winner and a leader. He guided the Buffalo Bills to AFL championships in 1964 and 1965 and became one our nation's most influential Republicans. He served nine terms in Congress, was a member of George H.W. Bush's cabinet and was a vice-presidential candidate.

Kemp died Saturday at his home in Bethesda, Md. He was 73.

"He was a terrific guy, a special friend, a special person," said Kemp's roommate at Occidental College, former NFL coach Jim Mora. "I'm pretty saddened by this."

Kemp's office released a statement in January that confirmed Kemp had cancer. Those close to him knew it was terminal.

A couple weeks ago, Mora and another Occidental roommate, NFL umpire Ron Botchan, dropped by for a weekend visit to see their old college buddy.

"It was tough because he was struggling," Mora said by phone Sunday from Palm Desert, Calif. "It wasn't the Jack that I was used to, outgoing, take charge, center of attention, dominate the conversation. That's how Jack was.

"When we saw him, he was very quiet. He couldn't talk well because he'd had radiation that affected his vocal cords. It was almost a whisper when he talked."

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