JFK Remembered: Rosey Grier

November, 21, 2013
11/21/13
7:02
PM ET
Roosevelt GrierAP PhotoFormer Rams defensive tackle Roosevelt Grier remembers how he felt the day President Kennedy died.
The former Los Angeles Rams defensive tackle and bodyguard for Robert F. Kennedy reflects on the 50-year anniversary of the assassination of President John Fitzgerald Kennedy:

"I was in San Fernando Valley with the Rams. We were at practice running around and [coach] Harland Svare came out and blew the whistle. We all ran over thinking we were going to get our assigned area to work. We go out there and he says, ‘I’ve got some bad news.’ He said, ‘Our president has been shot.’

"It was like dead silence fell over the field. Everyone was thinking. And we had one guy who always said something. He said, ‘They got another one.’ I look at him and I thought he didn’t understand the seriousness of our president being shot because there was such joy in our country and there was such hope in our country. We had a man who could take us to new heights in terms of the nation. I went down to the other end of the field and I cried. I cried for his family. I cried because of him being a father and brother and a leader of our nation. I cried. And I thought, ‘How could this be?’

"Yet, here we were. We were facing one of the most devastating things that I’ve ever been a part of and there we were. It was a tremendously difficult time for all of us. All the media was talking about this assassination. I sat and I watched and I watched the family and I didn’t see anyone crying. I saw everyone standing up and being a Kennedy. I thought it represented something for all of us that when tragedy comes -- and it does come -- you can’t stop. You have to keep going because the race is still going and there’s work to be done to make us better, to open our eyes to see that there is danger and each person is responsible to respond to that danger and sometimes it costs you the very life that you live.

"When practice was over, I went home and just sat. You go to practice and you listen to the radio and you read the newspapers and everyone is talking about it. It was a constant, constant dialogue on how it happened, who did it and why and all of that. My feeling was for the family and what it meant for the family.

"There was absolutely nothing I could do but think about the family. At that particular time, I wasn’t the minister that I am [now] but I was a believer but I didn’t know the power of prayer. I learned about prayer later that these are areas of our lives that we need to know the power of prayer and how to comfort the family through prayer and even though you don’t really know them, you admire them.

“The thing that goes through my mind [thinking about it today] is how did we miss this? We all thought everyone was happy and everyone was enjoying it. But we never realized that there are people that hate us. Suddenly, you wake up and realize that regardless of what you do good, people still don’t like you for it. I became aware and I began to be very watchful of people. I would no longer allow people to say derogatory remarks about other people when I was around them. I was very cognizant of the way athletes behaved themselves when they were in the public eye when other people were measuring their actions. I began to speak up. Quietly, I would say to that person or that group that we have a responsibility to be better representatives of the light.

“I just would like to say to the Kennedys that they gave a lot for this country and this country owes them a lot, not because of what they did, but because they stood and they represented what was good about our country and they got involved in issues that sometimes were controversial but they got involved to make our nation better.”

-- Grier, 81, as told to ESPN.com Rams reporter Nick Wagoner

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